Existence: What happens when computers overtake us?
By Michael Le Page Read more: “Existence special: Cosmic mysteries, human questions“ OUR brains are incredible. They are the most complicated things in the universe that we know of. And yet there is no reason to think that they are anything other than flesh-and-blood machines – which means we should able be build machines that can emulate them. Artificial intelligences on a human level would probably not remain at that level for long. AIs are expected to become smarter than us before 2050 (Technological Forecasting and Social Change, vol 78, p 185). A few researchers even think it could happen in the next decade. For the first time, we would no longer be the most intelligent beings on the planet. The consequences could be stupendous. In 1993, the mathematician and sci-fi author Vernor Vinge dubbed this point “the singularity”, because he saw it as a turning point that would transform the world. So what will happen to us? Nobody really knows. “It’s like cockroaches and dogs trying to predict the future of human technology,” says Ben Goertzel, leader of OpenCog, an open source project to create AIs with general intelligence. That hasn’t stopped people from considering various scenarios (Artificial Intelligence, vol 171, p 1161). One distinct possibility is that AIs will exterminate us, which seems especially likely if the first are robots spawned in military labs. Physicist and author David Deutsch of the University of Oxford has suggested that the way to avoid “a rogue AI apocalypse” is to welcome AIs into our existing institutions. But even if that were feasible,