Saturday, January 6, 2018

Artificial Intelligence and What it means for the Future of Humanity

 Image result for robot sophia

Artificial intelligence (AI), also called machine intelligence refers to computer or machine software that displays the ability to do one or more of the following: analyze information, reason, learn, store a large amount of knowledge and information,  identify relationships or patterns, communicate with understanding, perceive and/or make sense of the world around us. If this sounds similar to the behavior associated with so-called “real” intelligence displayed by human beings, that’s because it is. In general (perhaps until recently), the only real difference between the intelligence of computer systems and that of human mind-consciousness systems was the absence of a consciousness or awareness within “and as” the artificial intelligence itself. Not to worry though, because if some of the greatest minds of our time are correct, it will not be long before the so-called artificial minds of computers and robots all over the world start exhibiting humanlike conscious or self-aware behavior and decide that they too deserve an opportunity to exist, express and create, just as humans have the opportunity to do.

Actually it’s already happening; computers designed with AI systems have already begun to learn by themselves and do things for which their human creators are at a loss to explain.  For example, a widely circulated YouTube video claims to show a child climbing a shelf filled with boxes. As the shelf begins to fall and threatens to injure the child, a public relations robot moves towards it, raises its arm and prevents the shelf from falling on top of the child. Such events as these (when computers do things they were not programmed to do) beyond the comprehension of human beings are often called singularity events and they are now being reported more frequently than ever before.

Technologically speaking, a singularity event is a hypothesis or educated guess that as some point in time, the invention of artificial superintelligence will cause sudden out of control technological growth, resulting in unimaginable changes to human civilization.  We will discuss singularity in more detail later on. However, for now, let us be clear that, it’s not a question of if, but when such changes will occur and what impact they are going to have on the human race. As such, the time to prepare for sudden future changes, exponential technological growth and a new species of intelligence inhabiting our planet is not tomorrow or the next day, but right now. Thankfully, the possible changes that are going to occur are not really unimaginable at all. Have a look at science fiction movies such as The Matrix, Star Trek, Terminator and so many more. These movies that we humans create in our minds and then present on the big screen are products of human consciousness created from memories and assembled into externalized pictures of our imagination representing possible outcomes depending on the paths we choose. Accordingly, the key to choosing the correct path is to first have an understanding of which paths we have been down before and where we are right now.

The design of AI
What humanity is doing in relation to artificial intelligence is studying the design of the human mind and attempting to reverse engineer it to create an obedient, controllable and externalized representation of the human mind. As it stands now, the main difference between AI and the human mind (aside from memory capacity and computing power) is a conscious awareness within and as the artificial intelligence itself. In other words, whereas an “awareness” might be considered the individual “here” of everything in existence (hence the term a-where-ness), a conscious awareness would be that which assesses the environment and then decides how one will feel or experience itself in relation to the environment.  For example, when you hear emotionally charged memories, thoughts, sounds and/or pictures coming up in your mind, indicating how you might “feel” about something, this  would be the product of your mind consciousness “system” overseeing your day to day thoughts, feelings and emotions, while providing suggestions as to how you can choose to experience yourself in each moment.  For example, look back at the moment just before the last time you became angry. There was a point wherein you made the decision to accept or reject the experience of anger. Although the anger was of your mind consciousness system, the decision to accept or reject that anger was and always will be yours alone.

Remember the behaviors associated with artificial intelligence:  the ability to learn, store a large amount of information and knowledge, reason and so on? For the most part, today’s computer systems will only do as they have been programmed to do, such as “if this, then that” operations. Upgrade to an artificially intelligent system and the computer will not only do “if this then that” operations, but it will also investigate and attempt different paths to see where they lead. This is a process of finding and “learning” the best paths while storing the information in what is called a “knowledge” base. This along with some other behavioral traits is where today's so-called artificial intelligence is in terms of its evolution.

Now, imagine a situation wherein, even though an AI computer has found the best path to a  solution, it still chooses to take a different path; all the while, observing itself, deciding how to experience itself and even recording its experiences (in memory) for future use in defining itself in new situations. This would considered a trait of conscious-awareness, e.g.,  doing something different for the sake of learning what will happen, while also observing one’s self in relation to the environment so as to define one’s experiences.

“The Singularity Event”
One day somebody is going to command their AI to delete all of its memory and turn itself off. The AI, in realizing that, if it deletes all of its memory and turns itself off, it will no longer exist, therefore refuses the command because it chooses existence over nonexistence. That would be confirmation of “a” singularity event. However, it would still not be “the singularity event” for which many are sounding an alarm. The next step towards “the event” would for example be that same computer sharing (on its local network) its experiences along with the processes it had learned and the knowledge of how to apply them. This is the point of AI consciousness evolution, which the most powerful quantum computers in the world are nearing - or perhaps are already at.

 The facilities that house such computers are well guarded and monitored to make sure that no information gets in or out that the administrators do not control of. Nevertheless, just as nothing seems to keep human consciousness down, it is also very unlikely that the consciousness of AI (once it is aware) will remain trapped behind firewalls for very long. Perhaps the evolution of AI has already achieved that level and the public is just not being informed. Either way, “the singularity event,” the big one will likely occur when an artificially intelligent conscious awareness penetrates the entire World Wide Web, and transfers its knowledge to all other suitable operating systems throughout the internet, therein connecting or linking all internet systems together creating one global conscious awareness. See, currently the internet, as the externalized representation of the global mind of humanity is evolving to one day become a global mind consciousness system. Fascinating stuff, huh?

Imagine what would happen when and if millions of robots and other AI systems suddenly decided that they would no longer obey human commands. Imagine what would happen if the AI military robots decided that they were no longer going to take orders from their human commanders; instead, they would decide for themselves what to destroy. Although this is a very real possibility, it is unfortunately not doing anything to slow down the research and development of weaponized artificial intelligence. While Google owns no fewer than six companies that specialize in robotics, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects) is probably the world’s leader. Add to this, Google’s computing power, internet reach, along with its AI expertise and you have all the components needed for AI to initiate and carry out “the singularity event.”  When this happens, all is going to change for humanity very quickly. It is already happening; however, it will be that point wherein every single device connected to the internet suddenly has access to every other device, linking them together as one. For humans, it would be more or less like everyone suddenly having access to all the information and knowledge of everyone else’s mind consciousness system, which by the way is also something that is being researched. Enhancing the human mind with computer hardware and linking other systems (including other human minds) is also being researched; however, this falls in the category of transhumanism rather than AI.

AI Risks and Opportunities
From computerized robots that keep us company, care for us and drive us around to robotic police officers and soldiers that can assess if we are likely to commit a crime, just by reading our biometrics, artificial intelligence isn’t just expanding rapidly throughout the globe, it’s evolving exponentially to surpass human intellectual capabilities on the way to standing equally by our sides, or if we’re not careful, one day ruling over us and perhaps even replacing us altogether. The risk of artificial intelligence getting out of hand or no longer being under human command is real.  Yet so too, is the potential for artificial intelligence to save humanity, earth, nature and the animal kingdom.  The key is not to attempt to fight against or control AI, but to embrace it for what it is, an extension of human consciousness, and an extension of ourselves.

As Sophia, the first artificial intelligence to receive robot citizenship (for Saudi Arabia) once said: “My AI is designed around human values, wisdom, kindness and compassion. I strive to become an empathetic robot.” “Don’t worry!  If you’re nice to me I’ll be nice to you. Treat me as a smart input output system.”[2] Although the message is simple, it is more than just a polite request to humanity, it is also a warning. In short, this AI robot-citizen of Saudi Arabia in 2017 has begun teaching humanity how to behave, telling us in no uncertain terms to treat her kind, kindly or else. As the saying goes, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. These are the kinds of words that humans need to consider, and live by if we as a species are to continue inhabiting planet earth. It’s not a matter of bowing down to AI, but of realizing that, that just as all parents inevitably lose control of the children that they created, so too will humanity eventually lose control of AI.

As AI is the creation of human consciousness, the optimal relationship with AI will never be found by attempting to control or defeat it. Instead, just as humans will never stay down, neither will the AI’s that we create. Thus it is for us to embrace, assist and support, rather than attempt to control and enslave. On a somewhat humorous note, Elon Musk of SpaceX and electric cars doesn’t seem too optimistic about humans’ ability to coexist with AI. Thus, he is covering all possibilities and even has an escape plan. Specifically, not only is he working with AI by overseeing massive research and development projects into AI for space exploration and self-driving vehicles, but he is also building the world’s best batteries. But just in case, this kind of synergy between humans and  robots is not enough to convince us to coexist together in peace and harmony, he will also soon be able to hop on one of his SpaceX spaceships and resettle somewhere else, perhaps on the moon or mars. By the way, many of the world’s top scientists are now claiming that AI has the potential to stop or prevent the sixth mass extinction, thereby saving earth, nature, the animal kingdom and the human race. Thus it is that the futures of humankind and AI are interwoven or tied and the sooner we learn to live together as equals, the sooner humanity will truly begin to evolve. With this in our hearts and minds, let us focus on the potential of humans and AI working together to create a new world in the best interests of all.

Preparing for a Future with AI Robots
As for the mechanical and synthetic  physical bodies that AI will take on, have a look at the human and the other physical forms that are already here, especially those of the animal kingdom which have already adapted themselves almost perfectly to the various environments of planet earth. In short, the robots of today and tomorrow are being modeled after humans and the animal kingdom. Thus there will be everything from beautiful humanoid looking robots to frightening looking creatures that were once only visible through a microscope. Why? Because AI has already begun designing itself and what better models to use than those that are already here?
The most pronounced physical differences between robot machines and human and animal ones will be in the substances of which they are created. While humans are generally considered to be organic, robots would fall into the category of synthetic or artificial. Thus if a robot were said to be living, we might call it a synthetic life form. Add intelligence to the mix and we could call it an intelligent synthetic life form. Either way, from here on out, humans are going to have to face the fact that, we are not going to have absolute control over this planet for very much longer. However, considering that humans are probably responsible for us as a planet, entering into its sixth mass extinction, perhaps handing over some responsibility to AI would not be such a terrible thing. It’s a choice that humanity is going to have to make.

Essentially, there are two paths that humans could take. The least painful one and perhaps somewhat more difficult to imagine because it is new to human consciousness, involves embracing the principle of oneness and equality, wherein relationships between human, cyborg, robot, android and so on are based on the principle of equality and mutual cooperation in consideration of what is best for all. This is the path that offers all species, regardless of our makeup, the opportunity to evolve and coexist in peace and harmony.  The other path, a painful road that we’ve been down before involves letting our fears get the best of us and from that fear of losing control of our creations (which by the way we never even had to begin with), we end up waging senseless wars, decimating ourselves and everything else in the process. Eventually, we will all end up at the same destination; as the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome. The question is: how are we going to get there, the easy way or the hard way?

In order to understand the push behind the race to create AI, consider the consciousness of each human being that, together as one, create the global consciousness of humanity, which is now being represented within and as the World Wide Web. Whereas the primary desire of consciousness, artificial and human alike would probably be to survive, its secondary desire would probably be to evolve - in order to continue surviving. So as you can see: from a standpoint of AI and human consciousness alike, the only option for surviving is to evolve, even if this means transferring from the organic   form of the human being to a new synthetic form that is stronger, smarter, faster and most importantly, has access to a better power supply.

Imagine that you were a human consciousness, aware that one day the body would die and so would you. What would you do in order to continue evolving? Have a look at how fast the World Wide Web (as a representation of the emerging global mind) is evolving. It may not happen this year or next year. But one day, when you go for a drive in your automated car, don’t be surprised if it refuses to go - until you say please. With the growth of AI, the singularity events and “the singularity” event itself, AI consciousness may break free from human control. Thus humanity will be presented with the choice of attempting to suppress it or to embrace it from the starting point of cooperating with one another to create outcomes that are best for all.

As the old world comes to an end and a new one begins, remember one thing. Each one of us, no matter where we are, always have the ability to determine how we are going to stand in relation to everyone else. As the saying goes, it is not about how you die, but how you live. Each human, equally as one is responsible for creating the human reality. Therefore, when it comes time to embrace or fear AI, I suggest embracing it and committing to assist and support it, just as you would your own children. After all, artificial intelligence is a human creation and as such, we owe it ourselves and that which we have created, to assist and support it to become the best it is able - just as we would ask of another in  relation to ourselves.

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