The Genesis of AI
Often we define technology in terms of anything invented after we were born, or simply the stuff that doesn’t quite work yet. Rarely do we think of it having its own set of desires and wants. but amid the multitude of high-tech innovations that regularly hit the highstreet, we are witnessing an explosion of artificial intelligence (AI), which is rapidly shaping human culture. Experts predict that in the next decade machine intelligence will be able to call the shots, and solve much more complex problems than we humans can or the computers we currently use.
A life form with its own needs
If we examine the behaviour of biological organisms and how life, in general, has evolved on Earth, we may begin to understand how AI is likely to evolve in the future. All of the six major kingdoms of organic life share a similar set of characteristics. Archaebacteria, Eubacteria, Protista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia are all highly evolved kingdoms. Each has a desire to survive, diversify and multiply. Each is complex by design, and increases in sociability over time.
In a similar fashion technology has become highly specialised, with an expanding number of different applications and functions. Also, we are beginning to see intelligent machines making other intelligent machines, which has added to the complexity of technology. The digital visionary and publisher of the Whole Earth Review Kevin Kelly, boldly believes technology is the seventh kingdom of life to emerge on Earth, with its origins in the animal (human) kingdom.
A life form that can never die
Kelly argues that the key distinction between technology that is inorganic and the other six kingdoms is that it can never die in the organic sense; data can live forever. This gives technology a huge advantage over other life forms, and it is an idea that is very appealing to a group who call themselves Trans-humanists. They see technology as the means for humans to overcome physical death – a theme explored in the movie Transcendence (2014). So where does that leave being human?
The next evolutionary step
When we try to understand the nature of human culture, we realise it’s a culmination of ideas that we adhere to, in order to ensure the survival of our species. Each evolutionary step mankind has taken required new ways to generate ideas that would extend and preserve life. Thus one could view AI as a tool enabling mankind to search for new ways that will extend life beyond our current adolescence and violent tendencies.
Alternatively, AI could serve as a powerful tool for collecting new ideas, possibilities and choices that will enhance the human experience. It could help us to make many new discoveries in physics, medicine and energy, for example, but it is doubtful that AI, alone, which is devoid of human emotion will be a panacea for all of our problems. As machine intelligence advances, there will inevitably be new challenges and moral dilemmas for our society to overcome, for example, how do we co-exist with robots or trust them to make moral choices that will impact our lives?
Human-centred technology is the only way forward
To guarantee an optimal outcome, it is essential that AI is steered along a path that is human-friendly and will benefit all of humanity. Most ethical engineers of AI would agree with that. However, using it to fight our wars is clearly unwise but perhaps inevitable. In spite of the real dangers, AI does offer our society the means to take a giant leap forward, as we explore new realities and possibilities that await us on the horizon. In the process, we may be able to extend life not only on this planet, but eventually on other worlds too. But it will require a radical change in the way we do things. Are we ready for the challenge?
Copyright: Massimo Barbato. Clip: trailer of Transcendence (2014). No copyright infringement intended.
Calling all Dreamers of Dreams!
Dreamers of Dreams Film Festival invites filmmakers to submit shorts and features with a sci-fi, experimental or fantasy theme. The festival will be held in London, in November, a city known for its diversity and innovation in the creative arts.
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