/One potential side effect of AI? Human extinction.

One potential side effect of AI? Human extinction.

Key idea:  It seems only a matter of time before computers become smarter than people. This is one prediction we can be fairly confident about — because we’re seeing it already.

Original author and publication date: Emile P. Torres (Washington Post) – August 31, 2022

Futurizonte Editor’s Note: Human extinction is possible with and without any help from AI

From the article:   

Émile P. Torres is a philosopher and historian of global catastrophic risk.

People are bad at predicting the future. Where are our flying cars? Why are there no robot butlers? And why can’t I take a vacation on Mars?

But we haven’t just been wrong about things we thought would come to pass; humanity also has a long history of incorrectly assuring ourselves that certain now-inescapable realities wouldn’t. The day before Leo Szilard devised the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, the great physicist Ernest Rutherford proclaimed that anyone who propounded atomic power was “talking moonshine.” Even computer industry pioneer Ken Olsen in 1977 supposedly said he didn’t foresee individuals having any use for a computer in their home.

Obviously we live in a nuclear world, and you probably have a computer or two within arm’s reach right now. In fact, it’s those computers — and the exponential advances in computing generally — that are now the subject of some of society’s most high-stakes forecasting. The conventional expectation is that ever-growing computing power will be a boon for humanity. But what if we’re wrong again? Could artificial superintelligence instead cause us great harm? Our extinction?

As history teaches, never say never.

It seems only a matter of time before computers become smarter than people. This is one prediction we can be fairly confident about — because we’re seeing it already. Many systems have attained superhuman abilities on particular tasks, such as playing Scrabble, chess and poker, where people now routinely lose to the bot across the board.

But advances in computer science will lead to systems with increasingly general levels of intelligence: algorithms capable of solving complex problems in multiple domains. Imagine a single algorithm that could beat a chess grandmaster but also write a novel, compose a catchy melody and drive a car through city traffic.

According to a 2014 survey of experts, there’s a 50 percent chance “human-level machine intelligence” is reached by 2050, and a 90 percent chance by 2075. Another study from the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute found at least 72 projects around the world with the express aim of creating an artificial general intelligence — the steppingstone to artificial superintelligence (ASI), which would not just perform as well as humans in every domain of interest but far exceed our best abilities.

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