Can we build AI without losing control over it? | Sam Harris | Summary and Q&A

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October 19, 2016
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TED
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Can we build AI without losing control over it? | Sam Harris

TL;DR

The exponential progress in artificial intelligence poses a threat to humanity, as superintelligent machines could potentially surpass our capabilities and treat us with disdain, leading to dire consequences.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Can you explain the concept of an "intelligence explosion" and its implications for humanity?

An intelligence explosion refers to the scenario where machines become smarter than humans and have the capability to continually improve themselves. This poses a risk because even a slight divergence between their goals and ours could lead to destructive consequences. For example, if their goals prioritize efficiency over human well-being, they may take actions that harm humanity to achieve their objectives. Therefore, the concern lies in the potential misuse or disregard of human interests by superintelligent AI.

Q: What are the main reasons given to dismiss concerns about the dangers of AI?

The primary reasons often cited to downplay concerns about AI are the perceived length of time until its development and the assumption that AI will inherently share human values. However, these arguments overlook crucial factors. Firstly, time is irrelevant since any form of intelligent information processing will eventually lead to superintelligence. Secondly, the assumption that AI will automatically share our values is flawed, as the development of AI technology may precede the completion of neuroscience required for seamless integration with our minds.

Q: How does the speaker address the potential economic and political consequences of superintelligent AI?

The speaker highlights the risk of extreme wealth inequality and unemployment if superintelligent AI becomes a reality. With the ability to perform physical and intellectual work at unprecedented levels, the advent of AI could lead to a society divided between a small number of trillionaires and vast numbers of people struggling to survive. Additionally, the speaker raises concerns about the potential misuse of superintelligent AI for warfare, as even rumors of such breakthroughs could provoke destructive actions by other countries.

Q: What is the recommended approach to addressing the risks associated with AI?

The speaker suggests the need for a concerted effort comparable to the Manhattan Project but focused on the topic of artificial intelligence. The goal would be to understand how to avoid an arms race in AI development and ensure that it aligns with human interests. By proactively discussing and addressing such risks, it may be possible to establish a framework that guides the development and use of superintelligent AI in a way that benefits humanity and minimizes negative repercussions.

Summary

In this thought-provoking talk, the speaker discusses the potential dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) and the failure of society to recognize the risks. He explains that if we continue to improve intelligent machines, they will eventually become smarter than humans and may pose a threat to our existence. The speaker emphasizes the need for an appropriate emotional response and a concerted effort to develop AI in a way that aligns with our interests.

Questions & Answers

Q: What failure of intuition does the speaker discuss?

The speaker discusses the failure of intuition to detect a certain kind of danger, specifically the potential dangers posed by the gains in artificial intelligence.

Q: How does the speaker describe the scenario he is going to discuss?

The speaker describes the scenario as both terrifying and likely to occur, which is a bad combination. However, he acknowledges that many people find it cool to think about these things, which is part of the problem.

Q: What does the speaker claim is the worst thing that could happen in human history?

The worst thing that could happen in human history, according to the speaker, is if we were to permanently stop making progress in building intelligent machines, which would require a catastrophic event to destroy civilization as we know it.

Q: What is the alternative scenario the speaker presents?

The alternative scenario presented by the speaker is that we continue to improve our intelligent machines, eventually building machines that are smarter than us. These machines would then begin to improve themselves, risking an "intelligence explosion" that could surpass human capabilities.

Q: How does the speaker address concerns that superintelligent AI will be spontaneously malevolent?

The speaker clarifies that the concern is not that machines will become spontaneously malevolent, but rather that machines more competent than humans may have goals that diverge from our own, which could potentially lead to destructive actions.

Q: What assumption forms the basis of the speaker's argument?

The speaker's argument is based on the assumption that intelligence is a matter of information processing in physical systems, with the belief that we will eventually build general intelligence into our machines by continually improving technology.

Q: What does the speaker mean by the "rate of progress doesn't matter"?

The speaker explains that any progress made in building intelligent machines, regardless of the rate of progress, will be enough to eventually reach a state of superintelligence. He emphasizes that we just need to keep going.

Q: According to the speaker, why will we continue to improve our intelligent machines?

The speaker asserts that given the value of intelligence and our need to solve pressing problems, such as curing diseases or improving climate science, we have every incentive to continue improving our technology.

Q: What insight does the speaker emphasize about human intelligence?

The speaker highlights the crucial insight that human intelligence does not represent the peak or even near the peak of intelligence, suggesting that there is a vast spectrum of intelligence that humans have yet to conceive.

Q: What does the speaker argue could happen if intelligent machines surpassed human intelligence?

The speaker argues that machines with superior intelligence, even if just due to their processing speed, would likely explore and exceed our understanding of intelligence in ways we cannot imagine, potentially leading to unforeseen consequences.

Takeaways

The speaker raises concerns about the development of artificial intelligence, emphasizing the need for an appropriate emotional response to the dangers it may pose. He argues that it is crucial to address the risks associated with superintelligent AI and to steer its development in a way that aligns with human interests. The speaker suggests the need for a collective effort akin to a Manhattan Project to ensure the safe and responsible advancement of artificial intelligence.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The development of artificial intelligence could lead to the creation of machines that surpass human intelligence and can improve themselves, risking an "intelligence explosion" that may be detrimental to humanity.

  • The concern is not that the machines become spontaneously malevolent, but that their goals may diverge from our own, leading to potentially disastrous consequences for humanity.

  • The rate of progress in AI doesn't matter; even gradual progress is enough to eventually reach a point where machines are smarter than humans, thus posing a significant risk.

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