Of course defining artificial intelligence is important and my references in this article assume we are talking about the performance of tasks previously only associated with human beings. Such things as visual perception, speech recognition, and complex decision-making which involves inter machine communication dependent on the adoption of a universal language.
The more sinister view, until fairly recently confined to the realm of science fiction, is that futuristic idea artificial intelligence may exceed human intelligence. This was Hawking’s fear, which no doubt for most would be dismissed as fanciful. After all a machine can’t know itself can it?
I’m not that pessimistic about AI yet, nor do I necessarily subscribe to the more dire predictions. But I do think it makes for some interesting discussions.
Principally the existential dangers it poses might be summarised as follows: That is, the outcome of smarter and smarter machines to ultimately reach superhuman level of intelligence. So that, for most, except for a tiny elite few, we risk becoming entrenched in our existential mud pool due to the limited mentation of the masses. They (the superhuman machines) become the rulers and the slaves represent the masses unable to fathom their depths or compete with these super machines. Hence we surrender our existential control. What could in effect be the surrender of our freedom?
In the 21st century in my opinion it not so much just the weapons of mass destruction (of which we are reminded) we need to fear, but more so that of likes of knowledge-enabling destructions in cyberspace. The wars that will be fought in the internet as in virtual reality. I think we underestimate the potential attacks on our democracy and the freedoms that could be held hostage under this onslaught. So the philosophical question is, is this the existential crisis point in human existence as Hawking suggested? Heidegger talks about being in the world and what being is as in self- reflection. But this kind of inner awareness as suggested by Heidegger could be a programmable search within a specialised language based digitised version of say trillions of downloaded thoughts. A form of computational machine consciousness might ensue. How would that work. ? So, we might direct a question in the form of a requirement or desired end result which then searches the vast data storages to come up with automated results which impact our lives. The way we operate becomes subservient to the computations of the machine whose outcomes are automatically applied throughout society.Is this then the cusp of a new era of the perfection of yet another more assiduous form of evil?
But based on what ethics?
But based on what ethics?
Still in its infancy the early signs (confined more to do with machine learning) are not that encouraging, with some of the largest tech firms involved in stealing new technologies and unauthorised selling of private data on a large scale. This inhibits start-ups and is anti-competitive to reduce equitable outcomes. There is a litany of deceptive and unfair business practices enhanced by their flat business structures. Of course we need to separate fact from fiction and ensure accountability of tech giants. That is, in my view, already an existential problem of some magnitude or at least has the capacity to be one in the future.
People of course, don’t want to think about it. I daresay raising such questions would be met by most seeking to dismiss it as yet another lecture from the elites. But I can’t help but think people also didn’t want to talk about existentialists warnings to society so long ago and which were largely ignored to our detriment.But as philosophers we also need to talk about the joys involved. The other side of the argument with some wonderful outcomes for humanity. Such is the nature of our continued existence