You know the ants walking around doing their thing in parks, yards, fields all over the place, right… do they bother you? Most likely no. But say a few ants intrude on your turf, invade your house and get into your kitchen, are all up on your benchtop, crawling all around your stove, getting into your food and –at least– make you squeamish and, at worst, threaten you and your family’s health… does that bother you? Most likely yes. And most likely, if it happens to you, it ends in death for the antsurgents (see what I did there. Boom.).
If we (and in particular our intelligence) is eventually surpassed by Artificial Intelligence, what will be our purpose? And what will AI need us for? And more importantly, why won’t it just destroy us?
In James Barrat’s brilliant book on the dangers of Artificial General and Superintelligence, Our Final Invention, Seth Shostak, from SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Life Intelligence Institute) envisions humans in the place of those pesky antsurgents (too good not to use twice):
If we build a machine with the intellectual capability of one human, within five years, its successor will be more intelligent than all of humanity combined. After one generation or two generations, they’d just ignore us. Just the way you ignore the ants in your backyard. You don’t wipe them out, you don’t make them your pets, they don’t much influence on your daily life, but they’re still there.
But, this could actually work for us humans. On one condition.
In a future where AI is making all decisions and doing everything to do with technology, defence, economics, information processing, sushi production, perhaps we might still have a place. On the condition that we don’t intrude or impede AI’s functioning, efficiency, goal-oriented drive and resource acquisition. We may just have our place in the biological world, (in the backyard let’s say) and AI will be inside, occupying the electronic, information processing and machine world. It’s possible there will be no physical-bodied AI, and in that case, perhaps if we just mind our business, and stay out of the electronic, technological and informational kitchen, then AI won’t squish Humanity.
Sidenote: Shostak also believes that any extra-terrestrial life we hear from will be far more advanced than our meek biological form of life is, and it’s likely to be an artificial intelligence. For more, go here.