Business Insider recently spoke to Louis Del Monte, a physicist and entrepreneur who discussed the singularity in his new book, “The Artificial Intelligence Revolution.”
His basic point in the interview is that, come the close of next three decades, humans will no longer represent the dominating collective intelligence on the planet. The singularity, or technological singularity, represents the point in time when machine intelligence will surpass that of human intelligence, and the earliest estimate of that date, according to Del Monte, is 2040. It could happen as late as 2045, but that span of five years makes little difference to the author’s argument that this rise in machine intelligence could pose a serious problem for humanity.
Although some may think that the singularity will mark a time when the non-fictional form of Skynet becomes self aware and decides to eliminate all lifeforms other than its own, Del Monte argues that 2045 will not exactly mirror a Terminator-like situation; it will not initially be a war, he says. Instead, humans will become cyborgs as they increasingly use technological tools that just happen to connect to their own bodies. “In the early part of the post-singularity world, one scenario is that the machines will seek to turn humans into cyborgs,” Del Monte says. “This is nearly happening now, replacing faulty limbs with artificial parts. We’ll see the machines as a useful tool.”
The extent to which technology can benefit our lives is not limited to physical mobility either. Devices such as Google Glass and the various smartwatches popping up on the market are only the beginning. These types of technology, whether or not they make people more mobile or allow them to take photos and browse the Internet with their glasses, inherently bring technology more and more into the fold of daily life.
“By the end of this century,” Del Monte continues, “most of the human race will have become cyborgs. The allure will be immortality. Machines will make breakthroughs in medical technology, most of the human race will have more leisure time, and we’ll think we’ve never had it better.”
All of that will likely sound great to a humanity willing to immerse itself in advancing tech, and undoubtedly it will provide a standard of living that many people have never before experienced. The danger, however, comes when machine intelligence becomes increasingly aware of humanity’s flaws and is able to decide for itself that those flaws represent a danger to all living things on the planet — including the living machines. “The concern I’m raising is that the machines will view us as an unpredictable and dangerous species,” Del Monte says.
He says people can create wars and weapons; they can create computer viruses. He says people are unstable as a species whereas machines may be more stable, and they may find themselves to be more stable. If they become powerful enough and smart enough, Del Monte indicates, they could eventually view humans in the same way that humans view insects. People swat at insects because they are bothersome, and in some ways people are protecting their own lives — such as avoiding the transmission of disease. If machines start to swat at humans, either metaphorically or literally, “the implication is that they’re also learning self-preservation,” Del Monte concludes.
At that point, machines could become dangerous (to humans), and the concept of a real-world Skynet could inch closer to reality. Supposedly without wanting to stretch that far, Del Monte says his book is just a warning that exposes the limitations of current laws that regulate the expanse of technology.
Perhaps, as he insinuates, laws should be created to limit the amount of intelligence a machine can have. Without any machines realistically passing the Turing test, however, humanity may not jump into that pool any time soon. There is still time before the singularity, so there is still time, if necessary, to create limiting legislation.
Just in case we act too late, though, you might want to brush up on the first two Terminator films. A little preparation can go a long way.
Image courtesy of Stephen Bowler via Wikimedia Commons.