AI: A mirror on Humanity. Part Two


In the first part of this article, we tried to find an answer to the question, “What have we learned about ourselves thanks to artificial intelligence?” Now it’s time to ponder the next question:  

What will we learn about ourselves through AI?

Sooner or later (and perhaps sooner, rather than later), Artificial Intelligence will become a full-fledged neighbor of humankind, possessing free will and aspirations. More precisely, most will recognize it as such. In all likelihood, there will always be a minority that believes that even the most complex machine or program can only imitate reasonableness and believes that intelligence and self-consciousness are the prerogative of biological beings or even human beings exclusively. This inclusivity, however, is not currently widespread. The majority now believes that at their current level AI systems are nothing more than an imitation of intelligence and only a small minority sees them as real intelligence. 

However, we have no idea about the true state of affairs in this sphere, because we do not know what developers have “on their table” or what is already in the possession of organizations that operate with various degrees of secrecy. It is quite possible that “real” AI is already among us, but that we do not know about it. However, we will leave our thoughts on this matter to the tinfoil hat crowd and return to our topic.

Have we retained our adventurous spirit and pioneering genes?

Tell me honestly, when reading and watching science fiction in which intelligent robots are flying through the galaxy right along with humans, have you ever asked yourself: “Why do people in these stories risk their lives? Why don’t they just sit safely on Earth, and leave the exploration of outer space to intelligent machines?” If so, you’re not alone. Among space technology designers, there are quite a few proponents of maximizing the automation of space exploration. One of the expressors of this point of view was the famous space engineer, Konstantin Feoktistov, who, among other things, made a flight on the ship Voskhod-1. According to his rather sharp assessment, crewed  spaceflight is of no scientific benefit and, apart from the fact that people can fly into space and work in it, has given nothing to mankind. Proponents of this point of view often point out that a person on a spaceship or another planet is needed only to repair the equipment, which, in fact, does most of the work.

What if we create AI and robots equipped with it, which would be able to control spaceships and repair them? Would humans still fly into space? Not as tourists, but for dangerous and difficult work like exploring asteroids and other planets? 

Even now, when AI is still far from perfect, we prefer to use automatons. After the Apollo program was shut down, robots became the mainstay of space exploration. They explore deep space, land on the Moon and Mars, fly near asteroids, and photograph gas giants up close. Humans, on the other hand, don’t even make an attempt to leave low Earth orbit. This is true even though, at least technically, we could have long ago built a permanent settlement on the Moon and landed on Mars. Or, at least we could have made the attempt. People prefer not to take risks. No, not astronauts, but those who make the decisions for them, and are constantly tightening safety regulations. Yes, there are plans to return humans to the Moon and land on Mars. But wouldn’t they be reconsidered if a robot, equipped with AI and able to do what humans can, could be sent there? 

A good example is ocean exploration. The majority of all work and research at great depths is carried out with the help of unmanned vehicles. And this is despite the fact that we learned how to make crewed vehicles capable of diving to great depths a half-century ago.

Do we still have the desire to step into the unknown, the same desire that, thanks to which, we have become a planetary species after emerging from Africa? Will humanity retain its pioneer status, or will it surrender this title to intelligent machines? The emergence of full-fledged artificial intelligence will certainly answer this question.

What do we really want to do?

The development of AI systems will inevitably lead to complete or almost complete automation of most work processes. Smart machines will replace humans, and not only in factories and plants. They will surely dominate transportation, services, and multiple branches of intellectual activity. AI will also certainly become prominent in the management of economic processes, development and design of buildings and machinery according to set parameters, programming, creation of drugs and other chemical compounds, and medical diagnostics (at least as far as analysis and hardware examination are concerned). AI’s active participation is predicted even in such purely human activities as lawmaking and court proceedings. Indeed, AI is quite capable of analyzing and identifying all the contradictions, gaps, and loopholes in legislation. And in the role of a judge, AI will be able to take into account all the circumstances and precedents that are available in its database. In short, in the future we will have a society built in such a way that most of the work will be reduced to inventing tasks for AI. People of art, of course, will not go anywhere. Perhaps some of them will even defiantly refuse to help AI. But most of humanity will be out of work. At least the way we’re used to doing it. 

Now, don’t be alarmed. We’re not trying to describe another cyberpunk post-apocalypse in which billions of unemployed people stand in line for Great Depression-style chowder. Surely, with the help of AI, a new socio-economic system will be devised in which everyone will be guaranteed some kind of Universal Basic Income that will keep them on their feet. Perhaps this system will even provide more than what most people today receive through hard work.

The question is: What are we going to do? It is unlikely that coming up with tasks for AI will require a great deal of specialists. And it’s not going to take much time. So what are we going to spend that time on? 

Sport? Will we occupy ourselves with the endless invention of entertainment, hedonistic pleasures and ways to consume them? Shallow, don’t you think? How will humanity respond to this challenge? The authors would like to believe that most people will use their new opportunities to explore the universe and themselves. That people will strive to discover new facets of their intelligence and learn as much as possible about the world we live in. That they will improve themselves and persistently seek out other intelligent beings beyond Earth. In other words – it would be great if we became a civilization of scientists, explorers, creators, and philosophers. But something tells us that on the way to this ideal we will face a lot of obstacles and thorns, which will not be created by AI, but by us…

How will we meet another mind?

This question is one of the oldest and most asked. Every person has wondered about it at least once in their life, and thousands of philosophers, futurologists, and fantasists have been, and still are, searching for the answer. These searches have led to a multitude of scenarios and concepts on this topic. Some of these ideas include gods and demons, minotaurs and mermaids, fairies and elves, inhabitants of other planets and aliens from other dimensions. 

In the hope of detecting another mind, we try to pick up ordered signals from space, and we also send them into space ourselves. But our attempts at interstellar conversation have failed, so far. Either there’s no one to talk to or we don’t understand the language. It is quite possible that no one has taken any notice of us – we live on the very outskirts of our Galaxy. What do we need this communication for? First of all, we probably want someone to look at us from the outside and tell us who we are. 

It seems that the first non-human mind with which we will truly interact will be born through our own efforts. In any case, the emergence of a full-fledged AI in the foreseeable future seems much more likely than a flying saucer landing in front of the UN building or a portal from another dimension opening at the top of the Cheops pyramid. Actually, the “human – AI” plot thread has been developed in quite a lot of detail. Therefore, we will limit ourselves to enumerating humankind’s possible reactions when it realizes that a full-fledged artificial intelligence, self aware and with a will of its own, exists alongside it: 

  • We will try to subdue AI and not let it out of our control
  • We recognize AI as an equal species and will interact with it as partners
  • We will antagonize AI
  • We will distance ourselves from AI and ask it to develop separately from us without interfering in our lives

Which of these options humanity will choose, we do not undertake to predict. Those who have read our previous texts probably have guessed that the hearts of the text’s authors lie in the interaction of humans and AI as equal, mutually complementary partners. One way or another, the appearance of full-fledged AI will reveal to us exactly who we are. There is a high probability that our interaction with such an AI will mirror how and in what role we will act when we meet, for example, with an alien civilization. 

What is greatest in us? The desire for domination, xenophobia, and aggression? Or the desire to cooperate, learn, and communicate? If a self-aware AI appears, we will get answers to these questions very quickly. I would like to believe that these answers will show us in a good light.


Source: Pitch Avatar Blog

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