Paradox of AI 1: Have we been taken over?
Since very long ago, humans have either dreamt of having everything done without having to work, or different people at certain point have just taken care of optimizing very particular tasks, one after another. Either case, it seems to be part of a pervasive culture that we move towards automatization of our work, replacing human labour by machine labour. The assumption behind it, being that it allows humans to partake in activities that make more sense, that are more important, and improve the quality of life for less work.
There is a threshold on the progress of automatization of work: thinking, seems to be the ultimate leap where human work will be finally replaced. But once we make machines think like us, effective brain-androids (whose thoughts are shaped like ours) will only our work be replaced, or does it also compromise our identities, and the identity of a whole humanity? I will be writing some of what I have learned and reflected upon in the last couple of years, while living in different places of the world and getting different influences.
Have we been taken over already by artificial intelligence?
One of the classic imagined scenarios is where machines would have replaced the whole human race, because once humans create the artificial intelligence, there would be an intelligence explosion that would make the human race obsolete and maybe extinct in a short time. I personally think that this is the most likely scenario in case we manage to create the aforementioned brain-androids. But what I want to propose here, is that we have already replaced human race with our own work.
Maturana had an interesting take on the starting point of conflict between human and nature: he thinks that humans got in conflict with nature when we started wanting to have control over what happens. True or not, it does bring an interesting point: the model of thinking that we can find everywhere in the world is not necessarily something that is inherently human, or proto-human. Humanity may have emerged from the formation of societies that were able to communicate, share knowledge and build meaning in community.
When we see a video recording of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, we say that “we”, the humans made a great leap by putting a man on the moon. But were we still humans, or was it actually a theoretical construct, above us that did so, mediated by our work? The moon landing was certainly not the work of a single person. It was not even the work of the whole group at NASA alone. It was a work overtaken throughout many generations, since first gravity was discovered, and then the orbit of planets, etc. Engineers at NASA were only working according to the knowledge that was built by many since before, “on the shoulders of giants”.
They were aware of that, but what they may have not been aware, is that they were also acting upon certain moral structure that indicated that humanity should strive to land on the moon and create technology. Science follows a line of what makes more sense to the science. This is not the only possible mean of doing progress in a human sense, it is also a very peculiar way of doing so. At the end we are left with that we are not using tools of thought to achieve our human goals. We are actually the medium through which this frame of thought evolves. I think that in the initial times, this looked more like an innocent quest. Science provided solution to deadly illnesses, and faster means of transport. In that time, it seemed like people created a solution through their work. From then on, the progress of human technology started accelerating without a stop.
Now a days technology advancements seem to be predetermined by some sort of inertia, and no longer created, but discovered out from a mysterious path of progress.
This change in the meaning of progress happened because there is a stronger sense of orthodoxy and marginality. Whereas it is a generally acceptable career path to progress to pursue for artificial intelligence development, or the exploration of space, other life paths are not that desirable to pursue such as spirituality or off-the-grid community building. In this way, it can be thought that there is a proto-life of an artificial intelligence already taking place: a system with a delimited boundary, whose activity consists on producing itself. Some other paths of development are desirable only as long as they are profitable; such as game development, art, or dance. But we don’t really care about the depths about the act of play unless it has some potential to generate revenues at the end.
Opposed to the older scenario of scientific progress where we seemed to be “inventing” stuff, now inventions seem to fill the gaps of what we were already expecting.
This is why I think that when a man was put on the moon, people were only a medium, for the already living organism, to materialize the act. This organism was seen as a scientificism or rationality as a part of mankind, but the truth is that we were open to risk human lives for the achievement.
At the current point in history, it is necessary that we bend our current perception, to engage with the idea that maybe we are not in charge any more. Regardless if you actually believe it or not, this is an idea that will let you understand the process through which the singularity will emerge, or is emerging. Even I think that it might be too far-fetched to assert that we have already been taken over. However I think that the trend will go towards making the human intervention less and less important, until, at one time we will wonder whether it was us humans, who made certain progress, or whether it was our successor, artificial intelligence who decided and made these for us. Are we in control of our economy? Are we in control of politics? Currently they obey an erratic flow that we can’t control any more. Also for the case of science, if there is a cure for a deadly disease, it is immoral not to take the cure. In the same way, if there was a system of absolute truth to follow in any concern, it would be immoral not to follow it’s advice.