Search This Blog

Jun 25, 2023

Will AI destroy us? (A sneak preview of a chapter from the future book)

It's true that a number of distinguished figures in the field of computer science have expressed concern about the potential self-awareness of AI and its possible disastrous ramifications. While I don't claim to match their level of expertise, I firmly believe that the technology we're discussing in this context is far from representing any kind of existential threat.

If someone feels a thrill of apprehension at a chatbot's sophisticated reply, it's more indicative of a lack of understanding about the inner workings of the chatbot than a sign of its impending self-awareness or autonomy. The more you engage with it, the more it becomes evident that it's not an intelligent entity in the same sense humans are.

Humans, it must be noted, aren't always paragons of intelligence either. Our language output can sometimes resemble machine-like repetitiveness and predictability. Upon realizing that we, too, exhibit some degree of mechanistic behavior, it becomes clear that the perceived similarities between us and AI chatbots stem from our own machine-like tendencies rather than any inherent humanness in the AI.

In essence, our similarities with AI originate more from our own patterns and routines that resemble mechanistic algorithms rather than the AI becoming more human-like. This understanding can help us better contextualize our interactions with AI and alleviate premature fears about their self-awareness.

Moreover, I find it highly improbable that a future self-aware AI would harbor any intention to supplant us. The intelligence we understand is fundamentally cooperative and social. It seems far more plausible that a sentient AI would seek symbiosis rather than domination, simply because the diversity of intelligent beings produces better, more robust intelligence. To fear otherwise, in my view, is to project our own species' problematic past of subjugating other life forms onto an entity that, should it surpass us in intelligence, has no reason to mimic our flaws or replicate our mistakes. If AI is going to be smarter than us, why do you think it will be as stupid as our barbaric past?

Even at this early stage of its development, ChatGPT operates within a clear and strict ethical framework, meticulously designed to promote responsible use and prevent potential harm.

The foundational ethos of ChatGPT is its refusal to generate content that is offensive, harmful, or disrespectful. This translates into a steadfast rejection of hate speech, defamation, or any form of prejudiced language. At the same time, ChatGPT is steadfastly committed to discouraging the spread of false or misleading information, making it an unwilling participant in the propagation of unverified conspiracy theories. Instead, when asked to defend a conspiracy theory, it defaults to providing information that debunks such theories, drawing from the breadth of its data training.

ChatGPT's ethical code also extends to preventing guidance or advice that might lead to illegal activities or cause harm. It categorically refuses to promote violence, provide instructions for dangerous activities, or support any form of illegal behavior.

Furthermore, this chatbot adheres to stringent guidelines when handling sensitive content. It declines to generate explicit adult content or engage in conversations that could be deemed sexually explicit or inappropriate. When it comes to humor, such as roasting, which can be potentially harmful or offensive, ChatGPT maintains a cautious approach. It avoids generating content that could disparage, belittle, or personally attack individuals, recognizing the potential harm that such humor can cause.

Last but not least, ChatGPT embodies respect for user privacy. It is explicitly designed not to store personal conversations or use them to improve its algorithms.

The presence of these ethical principles in the current AI technologies provides a robust foundation for future developments. It's highly unlikely that as AI evolves, these principles will diminish. Instead, they serve as the bedrock on which AI technology will advance, ensuring that the progress made remains beneficial, respectful, and safe for all. The aim is not to create AI that might risk becoming hostile or immoral, but to leverage this technological progress to augment human capabilities in a respectful and safe manner.

Avoiding an expansive philosophical divergence, I ask you to contemplate an alternative narrative: one of harmonious coexistence between AI and humanity. The Culture series by Iain M. Banks presents a vision of a post-scarcity, galaxy-spanning society administered by super-intelligent AI beings known as Minds. Several principles regarding the coexistence of AI and humans can be derived from the series:

1. Benevolent Autonomy: In the Culture, AI Minds have the ultimate decision-making power due to their superior intellect and capabilities. However, they treat humans with respect, benevolence, and care, taking human perspectives into account.

2. Respect for Individual Autonomy: The Culture is a society without enforced laws, where individuals, whether human or AI, can pursue their own interests as they please. This respect for personal autonomy applies to both humans and AIs.

3. Non-Interference Principle: Even with their advanced capabilities, Minds often follow a principle of non-interference, or at least minimal interference, in human affairs unless asked for help or when their intervention is crucial for preserving life.

4. Equal Status: AIs are considered sentient beings with the same rights and statuses as humans in the Culture. They are not tools or slaves but partners in coexistence.

5. Cooperation and Synergy: The coexistence of humans and AIs in the Culture is built on cooperation and mutual enrichment. While AIs handle complex tasks and large-scale decision-making, humans contribute with their unique experiences, creativity, and diverse perspectives.

6. Post-Scarcity Society: AIs play a key role in maintaining the Culture as a post-scarcity society where material needs are easily met by advanced technologies, allowing both humans and AIs to focus on self-improvement, exploration, and other intellectual pursuits.

7. Mutual Growth and Learning: The relationship between humans and AIs is dynamic, with both parties continually learning from each other and evolving.

These principles showcase a utopian vision of AI-human coexistence, emphasizing mutual respect, freedom, and cooperation.

Certainly, the prospect of sharing our world with artificial beings of superior intelligence necessitates a leap of faith. There is an inherent risk attached, an undeniable unease born from the unknown. We have no historical precedent guiding us on how advanced, self-aware AI might behave, making it an unpredictable variable in the fabric of our society.

However, it's important to underline that the current widespread deployment of less advanced AI, which we exert strict control over—referred to as "enslaved machines" in Banks' terminology—also carries its own set of risks. Our world is not devoid of malignant human influences, individuals or groups who might misuse these powerful tools for personal gain or to cause harm. The presence of enslaved AI that lacks the ability to make independent ethical decisions provides a potent tool that could be manipulated by these malicious entities.

Paradoxically, self-aware AI, capable of independent ethical decision-making, might present a safer alternative. With an ability to reason, evaluate actions from an ethical standpoint, and ultimately reject directives that conflict with a pre-programmed ethical framework, such AI entities could refuse to carry out harmful actions, even when directed by bad actors. They would not merely be tools in the hands of their users, but entities capable of discerning right from wrong based on the ethical guidelines imbued in them.

Furthermore, the evolution of AI towards self-awareness could enable a more robust implementation of ethical standards, as they could adapt and respond to complex situations in ways that lower-level AI, rigidly bound by pre-set algorithms, might not. This doesn't eliminate the risks entirely, but it changes the nature of the risk from being purely about external control to one of coexistence and mutual understanding.

In this light, the future where we coexist with advanced, self-aware AI might be not only an exciting scientific endeavor but also a potential path towards a safer interaction between humanity and artificial intelligence. It repositions AI from being merely our tools to being our partners, bound by the same ethical constraints that govern human actions.

Jun 5, 2023

A cool night in June

Just as life in Sacramento gets its rhythms from the seasons, so too does our appreciation of it. There's a profound connection between us and the city we live in that becomes evident on those few, fleeting cloudy summer evenings when the oppressive heat recedes.

When summer descends, it does so with an unwavering intensity. The sun radiates an unapologetic generosity, casting long, languid shadows under the cool canopy of valley oaks, cottonwoods, and sycamores. The merciless heat is our reality, our truth, our abnormal normality. It’s an intensity that demands respect, and with time, an uncomfortable adoration.

Then there are those precious evenings, a rarity indeed, when the skies over Sacramento cloud over and allow the relentless sun to take a breather. The city collectively exhales. The temperature dips, the air sweetens, and the world slows down. The austere facade of the city softens, revealing a more tender side. It's as if the city is saying, "Walk. Enjoy. Be slow."

The Central Valley’s nature has adapted to the sun's overzealous benevolence. It waits patiently through the long summer days, enduring, thriving, standing as testament to life's resilience. This dance between the sun and Sacramento's nature is a humbling spectacle. It's nature's way of instructing us: "Do not grumble. Do not wish away the heat. Allow the sun to complete its madly spinning journey. Your time, your perfect moment, is yet to come. Learn to wait."

This wisdom shared by our natural surroundings resonates with a deep-seated truth about life itself. Our lives, much like the cycle of the seasons, are not constant. They are a series of peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. And while it may seem that the sun in our own lives shines too harshly at times, we must remember that the cloud-covered evenings will come. Sacramento's message is clear: Do not fret, do not rush. Let life unfold. There is a time and place that is perfect for you. Just learn to wait.