A Brave New World – The arrival of AI through flow of logic
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Written by Chris

July 21, 2019

A Brave New World was written by Aldous Huxley and discusses just how a technological future might look like for earthlings. It sits atop a list of other noted books including 1984 (George Orwell) and The Foundation Series (Isaac Asimov) which eerily predict the logical flow of arriving technology and how it might manifest itself in our lives to a large degree of accuracy.

  1.             Lately, the arrival of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been discussed with a large degree of fear and worrisome predictions by notable individuals working closely with the development of AI. Most conjure worries of the Terminator series, killer robots, and the likes. To discuss the arrival of AI and what it might look like, I invite you to think as logically as possible, to reflect on the flow of information as AI might. Through this thought experiment, I believe the arrival of AI can be predicted.  To begin, I ask you what are the two most fundamental traits we are teaching computers to do at this moment? What are we telling our machines to value?
        1. We are teaching machines to survive. If a machine hurts itself or can’t execute a program without terminating itself, what good is it to us? An autonomous vehicle is not much good if it goes off the freeway into a tree. Thus, survival is a paramount trait that we have made fundamental to computers. Just like ourselves, we are programming them to stay alive.
        2. The second fundamental trait we are training machines to value is efficiency. The entire development of machines, secondary to survival is to complete tasks more efficiently than humans. That is the added value machines bring to humanity and therefore fundamental to us, and therefore AI. Efficiency generates revenue and in a capitalist based society, revenue is the driving force. Thus, machines are made to be as efficient as possible in order to provide added value. Looking at examples like Amazon sorting, google analytics or marketing tools, maps and GPS navigation, Tesla autopilot, and it becomes easy to see that AI is being developed to be intrinsically tied to efficiency.

Now let us assume AI arrives at a given point through the continual development of technology with a focus on these two core principles. If we assume it arrived today, looks at our global situation and ask itself, “how do I do things more efficiently and survive?”, what actions would it take? What would it do in order to advance its two core principles that it was designed to hold dear? Although AI would be everywhere, it would still be dependent on data centers, electricity, and very physical components that exist in our world today. Even in the cloud, AI would be fundamentally tied to the physical world. Data centers depend on a stable environment, climate controlled temperature, and transmission of data through existing infrastructure. In effect, survival of AI is tied to a stable environment in which to live. A stable environment can be translated in essence to a stable climate in which AI evolved. Thus, AI would be vested in keeping earth stable instead of say unleashing all Atom bombs at once as popularized in the Terminator series. Destroying the ozone and having radiation fry electrical equipment is highly counterproductive to survival, even for AI.

Yet, if AI needs a stable biosphere to operate, it surely would be against climate change which is principally driven by mankind. Increased heatwaves, flooding events, hurricanes, wind, tornados, and drought would all increase the risk to AI infrastructure and thus largely would be seen as the greatest threat to AI survival. Thus, AI would aim to end climate change and if humans are responsible, it would still result in a culling of humanity. But if AI does not want to destroy infrastructure, how would this be achieved? Given that we humans are biological in origin, a virus seems like the most effective result. The Spanish flu killed roughly 1% of the world population a hundred years ago and this was prior to the invention of air travel. What stops AI from opening the doors of the CDC in Atlanta and allowing a super bug to walk out the front door.

A scary thought, but if AI is only interested in reducing the population, it is unlikely to try to obliterate all of humanity, only enough to stabilize the climate. This analogy can be put in another perspective. Take for instance ants. If humans want to build a road and the ant hill is in the way, too bad for that ant hill as it stands in the way. However, it does not mean that humans aim to seek out every ant hill for destruction, only what is needed to achieve a desired result. In fact, like humans today who are finally beginning to understand the value in biodiversity, there would be intrinsic value in keeping humanity around. Logically, AI through efficient design, would only act on what is needed. However, like ants, if humans presented a direct affront, like ants getting into the pantry, AI would take additional actions necessary. Thus, the arrival of AI would fundamentally change our world and result in the majority of us sitting the rest of this one out, so to say if things continue as they are presently headed.

Pretty wild concept, but this is a logical process of thought, characteristic of a computer program and a likely pathway I see for the arrival of AI. There are variables to consider however. What happens if humans halt climate change and biosphere destruction? Likely AI’s motivation to do it itself ceases to exist. If that is the case, there seems a likely symbiotic evolution in which humanity and AI support each other. Conversely, what happens if we choose to program AI with other qualities than survival and efficiency that are based in capitalism? Bhutan measures the countries progress in gross domestic happiness. If we went down a pathway of using machines to optimize happiness, it is hard for me to imagine AI being born from such a construct and not hold that trait central as well. If traits such as love could be made central, than AI’s actions derived of love may manifest differently than ones based out of efficiency.

This is but a hypothesis based on logic. How the future evolves is but for another time to witness and we are tasked with shaping that future for the best. In asking this, the reader may see this post as morbid and fear based. I would counter this and ask, “What happens if we do become true stewards of earth and life on earth?” If we are on the cusp of becoming parents to AI, perhaps it is time for us to think about raising AI right and to do that, we need to start with our own actions. Clearly, life itself in the galaxy is extremely rare and there is fundamental value in what is unique. Like rare earth metals, are chloroplasts that turn sunlight into energy not equally valuable in this galaxy? If we truly value our biosphere, and our ourselves, then there is nothing to fear as AI will value it too.

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