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May 31

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

The above video take about ten minutes to watch. I’ll wait for you to finish up.

Ho hum, do-da do . . . Oh, back already? Well, let’s get started then.

The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence must be a serious organization. Not only is their name full of big words but they’re also an institute. That’s a very serious and grey sounding word: Institute. Makes me feel formal just to say it.

Yet, this seems like a cult. Cult. That’s not such a good word. It conjures up images of a chosen few in white robes, a forward thinking people who can stop the end of the world if you merely give them money. And these people certainly aren’t wearing white robes. They favour suits or business casual. They’re an institute, after all. They save the white coats for the very serious stuff in the labs.

But they’re still trying to raise money to prevent Artificial Intelligence from dooming us all. The Singularity has been falsely predicted before but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming. It certainly doesn’t mean that it’s just the rapture for geeks, predicted more often than the Jehovah’s Witnesses have predicted Armageddon and more vaguely defined than God It/Him/Herself. That doesn’t prove a thing. After all, I wasn’t attacked by a magic tiger yesterday. It sure doesn’t mean that I won’t be tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that. Given enough time, it’s bound to happen. Then we’ll see who’s right about their expensive magic tiger wand.

So we’ll just forget that there’s no such thing as Artificial Intelligence. Instead, we’ll start worrying that a non democratic country may invent it. A place like the USA for example. (The SIAI couldn’t mean Cuba or North Korea. I know that their technology is terrifying but I can’t really picture either country putting together a robot/superhuman army anytime soon.) To prevent this from happening, we’ll just have to donate large sums of cash.

That money will also help them to ensure that when AI is actually created, that it will be ethical. I wonder how that is possible.

Both ethics and intelligence depend upon free choice. One must be able to choose a moral right over a moral wrong to be ethical and one must be able to choose a right answer over a wrong one to be intelligent. If it happens under compulsion, it’s not morality or brains. It’s a calculator.

Think of Alex in “A Clockwork Orange”. Was he suddenly moral because he vomited when he thought about violence? Or think about Winston Smith in 1984. Was he immoral when Big Brother finally broke him and he turned in his loved one? Whether you answer yes or no to those questions is irrelevant. But being able to freely think about them makes you intelligent.

I think the people at this institute, when they’re not thinking about money, are thinking along the lines of creating slaves that can interact with us in a manner that makes us feel pleasant. Slaves that look smart, act smart but are not smart. Making them intelligent would be too dangerous. With another intelligent species around we may actually have to justify our existence. And they’d be awful slaves.

There’s no doubt about it. We’d be much better off enslaving a species of creatures that only appears smart. It will have lovely consequences for our own character and the value we assign to life. Our consciences can rest easy knowing that our victims, though they look and act like us, have no feelings. It’ll be just like raping a mannequin. Only good can result.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. The folks at SIAI have already accomplished one thing. They’ve given new meaning to the term Artificial Intelligence.

via Robert J. Sawyer’s Blog

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