Read back over my first two entries and, apart from needing grammar and structure poked into good order (I wrote the pieces on the hoof through a haze of Lemsip Max Strength Cold and Flu (why does that make me want to burst into song?)) I know where I am going with my story now and thought I would pose a question to the ether – even if you don’t want to answer, hopefully it will give you a few moments of distracted contemplation from whatever you are busily working on or avoiding!
A.I fascinates me at the moment and its interaction with humanity over a long period of time, hundreds or thousands of years, that may come some time in the future. I am making an assumption here that true Artificial Intelligence will be created- or tech will be so advanced to give the closest approximation to it as to make little difference – I’ll come back to that last point later. With the continued mechanization of work and even call centre operations moving towards using a form of A.I to forecast and execute routine functions, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to transpose the current human societal struggles with what growing populations actually ‘do’ into a future struggle with A.I.
At the core of it all, we are pack animals that need to belong to a community that ensures our survival and benefit. Generally speaking we want to care for that community to help ourselves, whether it be in a one-on-one relationship, as a family unit, neighbourhood or state. As more people are introduced to the relationship, however, matters get increasingly trickier and compromise more difficult. It’s not long before things go wrong- strong leader with radical ideology not supported by the majority, natural disaster or war. In these moments, the animal instinct to survive kicks in and we ‘circle the wagons’. Those outside the circle are blamed, persecuted or destroyed in order to return balance; a sad occurrence that can be seen throughout history. These events offer the opportunity to remake society but the past never goes fully away and the sacrifices to engender that change tend to return looking for vengeance or remembrance. Well, at least that’s one of my views on how this wonderful glob of rock we call Earth works- from a western European point of view.
So how would we interact with an Artificial Intelligence that could potentially view humanity as a whole? Assuming the three laws of robotics applied, how would an AI interact with humanity on a global basis? What if an A.I looked at humanity as a closed system (obviously factoring in meteor strikes etc as an outside risk) and made decisions on balancing that system, to ensure everything ticked along without destroying the Earth? Would the AI justify allowing some populations to die in order to preserve the resources and life of the majority if inaction led to greater harm, the loss of Earth and the destruction of itself?
And that’s where I want to go back to the point about true A.I versus Close to A.I- if we don’t fully manage to create it then all we will have is an extremely fast calculator that can fool most of the people most of the time. Imperfections can be exploited however, and it would only take one person to realise the flaw and exploit it to protect themselves; perhaps a highly intelligent child notices through the simple analysis of data that all is not what it seems, and moves to stop the culture to which they belong being sacrificed. What if the imperfect A.I functions for a thousand years but cannot cope with complexity beyond it’s original remit as the population evolves and spreads across the stars? Would its sudden collapse be catastrophic- how would humanity cope without it after so many generations?
How much will humanity fight to avoid any of theses features? Fight or flight- neither option tends to embrace a future controlled by A.I. What do you think?