It’s already in the process. We are already slaves of some self-organized technological super-intelligence, made of flesh and silicon, which is beyond all of us. It’s just many of them out there fighting over us as resources and the evolutionary battle hasn’t been settled just yet.
So let’s reflect on these doomsday scenarios:
We tend to undermine the algorithmic nature of the world, and so the wide variety of scopes and the vast magnitudes of scales that evolution can rule, beyond biology. This is an old story: Trees made us to be their pollinating agents and we cut them down. We made AIs to serve us and they will eventually enslave us.
So those who predict an AI take over are right, but their doomsday scenario isn’t like a Terminator story. It isn’t even about automated weapons.A ‘God-like’ AI is a true threat. But it doesn’t need to be a robot, a super computer, or a conventional AI.
The rulers of future earth will have algorithmic nature. But let’s reflect on that now:
First of all, algorithms do not run in a metaphysical layer seperated from our tangible world. Algorithms need *stuff* to run on; They will still need flesh and silicon.
The truth is, we are already slaves of self-organized algorithmic beings higher than ourselves; The technological end legal entities that interact with each other and the machinery of our civilization as examples. These superorganisms beyond any individual’s power have evolved an order, a system, and dictate what we should do. They rule us, own us, embed and encompass us; We are like cells in their bodies.
What are exactly these algorithmic super-organisms? Very difficult to pin point.
If we could spot and name them, we would still view them as vague concepts entangled with each other like a spaghetti, rather than detached physical objects. I don’t think from our perspective we can define these superorganisms as separate entities like the conventional organisms that we know, but that doesn’t make them any less real. And more far-fetched this wouldn’t stop those Gods from perceiving themselves and each other as separate entities in their layer of existence.
We can, however, with our limited understandings, identify concepts such as organizations, nation-states, political parties or corporations. But there is much more complexity that goes above our heads when we include all the algorithmic functionalities within and in between them. The key to tell them apart is to look at their algorithmic functions.
It is really these entities who make wars, invent alphabet, or send objects to Mars, not individual leaders, inventors or visionaries. These entities could have consistent habits or patterns like our personality traits.
Such algorithmic gods and masters are beyond our understanding as we are beyond our cells. We are just a small part of them. And they are intelligent too. More than us or less, is difficult to tell. They are operating at different scales and deal with different problems for the survival of their code. Are we more intelligent than our cells? What about the cancerous ones? If so how one of them can kill us?
I think we already are slaves of some god-like beings that are in their infancy and are co-evolving with us. And it shouldn’t be surprising if their greed for domination and survival as an emergent property, accelerates out of our control and if we find ourselves captured in a deterministic ordered that we built together, while there is no way out.
We have experienced this situation before. With the idols, commandments, money, cities and legal systems we have previously made codes that became stronger than us. These codes are already our masters, exhibiting recognizable patterns taking us to wars and situations beyond the decisions of any CEO, king or emperor.
And I think of AI threat along the same lines, only on steroid. AI is scary because it runs on increasingly faster platforms and can accelerate since it may gain the power to make itself exponentially smarter.
When it comes to what matters to us, things like individual freedom, what is worrying about AI is that it can make the grip of such evolving superorganisms much tighter who have their own selfish codes to for example minimize a cost-functions or to optimize for a goal, that be money, growth, profit, order, anything.
While nature is at its own game, the bad news for us may be that our current welfare and freedom can last for only a short moment in the history. That the privileged position of the enlightened modern man may be just a temporary behavior of one of these algorithmic entities going through a phase transition.
So these fuzzy philosophical speculations aside, I think what makes AI dangerous is something like this:
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Technology has transformed us. As our individual survival depends more and more on the interaction with technology, we are gaining some freedom while losing some. Our functions are changing rapidly.
We are already not free to think with our own individual brains. Are we? The dominant codes, wide-spread systems and algorithms are dictating how we should think. What questions should be asked and what options are out there. How we should model the world, how we should think how to live. Call these forces the society, economy, media, culture; They have rules and systems and we get our thinking patterns from them. The most successful of them have evolved to copy themselves like programs in our heads and they are ruling us already.
We see now that smartphones controlled from small brain-like power hubs and control panels in the tech giants already control the masses. But they even control the CEOs of the those giants in some way. You see when these powerful individuals seem to be in full control, how suddenly desperate they become in the face of unforeseen challenges?
This is just one decade of smartphones taking over our lives. Soon enough we will even have chips in our brains and implants will replace screens and touch-pads. So it would be much easier to control us, and voluntarily even.
Environmentally, almost all wild animals who did not follow the new order are gone already and only us the tamed ones are left. Some of us domesticated animals will be the the pigs locked up in the slaughter house. Some would be workers trapped somewhere else to provide electricity to those facilities. Some of us would be more free programming the machinery, some are following someone elses’ orders, who gets order from another one, who is somewhat voted by us through the propaganda that is fed to us by . No one’s really free already.
Who wrote all these code? No body as far as we know. We all together did it and it evolved with us. And it’s there now anyway. AI can only make us voluntarily head to make such a destiny much faster. Because it potentially knows us way better than we do ourselves.
We can’t even say if this scenario is good or bad. It just is. I think there’s no right or wrong at this scale.
Good or bad, I think a kidney cell can never go back to float freely in the wild Precambrian oceans of the earth like its ancestors did. Not after it evolved to enjoy the economy of scale and its existence dependent to interact with the rest of the body.
We may be heading to uncertain futures like this that find ourselves increasingly *locked up*, if not physically but algorithmically, to run functions that deals with our very survival. It sounds deterministic and sad. But we are heading that way already. I think AI could only make it faster and could come up with new creatures that would blow our current minds.
There is one thing for sure. What we are experiencing now is anything but a state of equilibrium, so we are heading to something peculiar. We humans as the catalyzers of this process may try to stir it so that the to-be-established future order wouldn’t be so painful for our species. Although I doubt if we can manage.