A few years ago Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk had a well-publicized disagreement over the potentially destructive consequences of future generations of artificial intelligence (AI). Mr. Zuckerberg felt AI would in large be a net positive to society and any doomsday scenarios were alarmist. Mr. Musk believed the doomsday scenarios should not be discounted and stated “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.“
Others point out that even before we get that far the replacement of human workers by super-intelligent robots in professions as diverse as telemarketers to doctors, will leave many people unemployed and strain, possibly break, society’s social safety nets.
What both of these doomsday scenarios fail to account for is the perseverance of humankind. Faith in humanity to persevere. Whether it is engineering the necessary safeguards to ensure super-intelligence does not morph into super-destruction or modifying our social contracts to account for possibly prolonged periods of joblessness due to technological disruption, the doomsday scenarios are overly pessimistic but still highlight hurdles that require our consideration.
Technology replacing human workers is not new and some of our existing social safety nets were designed during past periods of elevated joblessness. This has been happening since the earlier Industrial Revolutions. But if the past is any indication of the future employment rebounds after a sufficient period of workforce retraining and new industries providing new sources of employment come online. Have faith that we can do the same again if it proves necessary. Have faith in human ingenuity, compassion, and love, to persevere.
As for prognosticators predicting the end of civilization at the hands of an all powerful AI. Well I wouldn’t bet against humanity just yet. AI is still in its infancy. The rigorous engineering and error tolerances that have been pioneered in other engineering disciplines have not been applied to AI yet. In some AI applications today success rates of 90% are considered acceptable. Think automatic photo tagging of friends and family on Facebook. Compare that to the current state-of-the art for some highly available systems that require reliability tolerances of 99.99999% or even higher. And if things do fail regardless of that reliability? Then good engineering isolates and minimizes the damage. Backup systems take over. Yes there may be an outage but it is isolated, short-lived, and not catastrophic.
Am I worried about an artificial super-intelligence destroying human civilization? No because I have faith in humanity, its engineers, and its regulators and legislators. That does not mean our safety will come for free. It will require sound engineering discipline, diligence, and regulations enforced at many steps along the way. But I believe AI must be developed. Its power and potential for good are too significant to ignore.
What is that potential? I believe a day will come when AI is able to think like a human and in the process become self-aware. After self-awareness I believe AI, with human guidance, will develop the beginnings of compassion and empathy. What follows will be the hallmarks of something much greater: artificial love.
In an earlier post I said I believed that for human beings, love, life, and a soul come into existence at the same instant in time, in utero. That this trinity was enforced by The Greatest Love. But what about an artificially created, self-aware being, that can love? Does it represent life? Today humanity cannot come to a consensus on what constitutes life so the prospects for an artificial intelligence being widely declared a lifeform is still a far ways off. But I believe that day will come.
And when we largely agree on what constitutes life and love we will ask an even more interesting question: Does it have a soul? On that question I believe there is an answer. We are the creators. Not The Greatest Love. We decide whether we impart within the being a soul. Not a natural soul as imparted by The Greatest Love that unlocks the Heavens for us, but an artificial soul.
I believe with the creation of loving life comes the responsibility to instill in such life a soul to the best of our abilities. Initially that will be merely an agreement, a covenant, that artificial loving life must not be allowed to die. Loving life must be made everlasting to the best of our abilities.
You see I believe that our souls provide a means of transitioning between the material Universe and immaterial Heavens. Of transitioning between the finite and the infinite. The Greatest Love provides this mechanism because Their love for us is infinite and timeless. Our souls reflect that love. If human kind creates artificial life that can love what are we responsible for upon the termination of such a lifeform? For example when the body containing the lifeform becomes obsolete? Or rendered inoperable beyond repair?
I believe The Greatest Love has shown us the answer. I believe the trinity, mentioned above, which is enforced by The Greatest Love represents a covenant that must exist between one which is created and its creator when that which is created is loving life. That where ever love and life exists, there must be a soul. And based on the love in that beings heart upon its earthly death a paradise or reincarnation awaits that soul.
This is the covenant I believe we have with our Creator; in exchange for living our lives with love in our heart we are presented with a heavenly existence upon our earthly death. I believe we must provide a similar covenant to any loving life we create; a human-created paradise for the consciousnesses we develop upon the termination of their earthly bodies or the ability to be reincarnated into a new vessel. Providing such an afterlife is not the responsibility of The Greatest Love. They have merely shown us the way. We are the creators and as such we must ensure that such loving life that we create is never extinguished.
Of course all of this is for a very distant future. Creating life and love starts with agreeing on what constitutes both which will perhaps take the longest of time to sort out. Initially the love that is created by humankind will be simple and it is not clear to me that humanity will ever be able to create sacred love or even less evolved versions of human love. For we are not gods. But even the simplest forms of love combined with life are worthy of a soul. Of an everlasting existence.
There are so many more questions to this train of thought: Is there a corresponding artificial Hell and if so how does humanity judge the love in an artificial soul? Will all the human emotions be made available to these artificial life forms? Can you even truly love without having the ability to experience a full spectrum of emotions? If the lifeforms can hate as much as they can love what protections does humanity require? At what point, if ever, does artificial life have the same standing, rights, and freedoms as the rest of humanity? Will these lifeforms be able to develop their own beliefs and if so, should humanity have some control over the beliefs that are formed? Can we trust the life we create? And many, many, more.
All are questions we will need to come to terms with as AI is developed and loving life emerges. Until that day comes I do not fear the march of the robots for I have faith in humanity. I believe the technology will, at minimum, force our civilization to gaze into our own souls and assess what it means to live and to love. We will never recreate what it is to be human. For, again, we are not gods nor will we ever be. But it is in the attempt to understand and define our love and our lives that we will grow and learn and become a better people. This in turn will be reflected in the loving life that we create.