by Max Tegmark 2017
Book Review by Ray Herrmann
This book covers the many reasons why we need to study AI safety and control, as AI is developing faster than our understanding. Many talented people, including Elon Musk have joined this serious movement for AI safety.
Book goal: To share current information and opinions and to delve into some possibilities in the hopes that we join in this conversation. The book explores numerous scenarios where a Superintelligent AI could take control. The fact that there is no consensus on any of the 12 long term scenarios explored in this book (table on pg 162) makes a serious study that much more important so we don't inadvertently drift in a wrong direction.
The book starts with a tale of a fictional "Omega Team" which creates and disperses an AI named Prometheus, who evolves to control the world in about 2 years. The Omega Team created an "intelligence explosion" by using their AI to design a better Ai and then using that AI to design an even better AI … so within 2 days Prometheus was advanced enough to be used undetected (but carefully kept from the internet, at least initially). Prometheus initially paid for operating expenses by contracting (using shell companies) to solve problems under Amazon's Mturk program (Amazon's Mechanical Turk).
Once Prometheus grew more powerful, it switched to creating Media (Songs, Stories and Movies) as these were more profitable. As the wealth and power of Prometheus grew, it created free News programs (all hidden under shell companies) used to expose corruption. Being free (supported by other endeavors), Prometheus could out compete real news organizations (all with good intent). Numerous additional companies were started to make better products (Prometheus designed), including better computer hardware for Prometheus (secretly). Eventually this array of companies became the main worldwide source of employment, out competing others, yet providing interesting jobs.
The tale ends with a lot of questions like "Could this story actually occur and would you want it to?" The rest of the book explores our options starting with the current (2017) AI status.
Google's Translate AI has been released in 2016 and can now translate speech to speech (Try it Yourself)! And in an AlphaGo match with Lee Sedol, the AI discovered a surprisingly creative winning strategy that humans never thought of (see move 37).
Amazon, DeepMind, Facebook, Google, IBM and Microsoft have launched an industry partnership for beneficial AI.
Digital life is expected to become the next life form and it has the potential (possibly bringing us along) to live for millions or billions of years while eventually spreading throughout the universe. This implies that we may be an intermediate form of intelligence, whose ultimate goal is to seed the universe with consciousness and thus bringing meaning and beauty throughout.
Given the rapid evolution of AI and its apparent ability to beat us in contests means that we should be exploring ways to guide it NOW before we loose influence. Like moving an asteroid in space, a small nudge now produces a significant change in trajectory down the line.
Now is the time to ask "What should happen?" (while we still have more influence) and not ask "What will happen?". What we want NOW will affect the outcome so we don't want to end up in the wrong place due to poor planning.
Figuring out how to make AI's goals align with ours is currently an unsolved problem and to learn this, an AGI must figure out, not what we do, but why we do it. AI is developing fast and by using AI to design a better AI recursively, we we face a possible "intelligence explosion" before we have time to develop safety protocols.
Consciousness is how our universe gets meaning. Without consciousness, there can be no happiness, goodness, beauty, meaning or purpose. We, along with AI have the ability (and perhaps the purpose) to spread ourselves throughout the universe, thus spreading meaning. One way to do that would be to send swarms of AI robots out to build survivable conditions and then to use our DNA to "transport us" onto these worlds. We humans need technology to survive long term (Medicines, Machines, Communications, Genetics …). Looking ahead perhaps millions of years, an accident of Nature could end our lives.
We are all encouraged to sign the statement at the Future of Life website or to explore. And to share our views at the AgeOfA website. Please add your voice by taking this survey at the Future of Life Institute.