Is Quantum Computing Likely to Happen before Strong AI? Part I

Quantum computing and strong AI are two scientific advancements that can potentially change humanity forever. It’s important to analyze the potentially damaging impact of these technologies on society and to estimate rough timelines on major scientific breakthroughs that can make them a reality.

Waking up in a world of Quantum:

Let’s say we wake up one day and there is a fleet of quantum computers connected to the Internet. No one saw it coming. There will likely be immediate panic as Internet security and world’s financial infrastructure melts down along with the cryptography protecting it. The quantum computers can change any account balance in banks, decrypt most communication, and break public key infrastructure; you can no longer trust your connection to anything online. Only way to keep your digital infrastructure secure will be to take it offline. A nuclear winter for technology will follow as we take almost everything offline, upgrade to post-quantum encryption, recover from hacks and damages, and slowly bring the world back online. It’d be catastrophic, but we’ll likely recover from it.

Waking up in a world of strong AI:

On the other hand if we wake up one day and there is a fleet of strong AI computers connected to the Internet nothing catastrophic would happen. At least immediately. It’s just like discovering some aliens who are at a similar intelligence level as us. They will not have any significant advantage over us on day 1. There might even be celebrations on the streets.

And then when strong AI starts evolving faster than humans, which it will, we’ll start realizing the real implications of creating a new silicon-based life form. No human can perform mathematical calculations faster than a calculator app on an average mobile phone. We don’t even come close. We lost that competition decades ago. Strong AI “aliens” will become better than us at writing code, creating art, inventing cryptography that humans can’t break, replicating themselves and extending their life, discovering sources of energy, and advancing robotics. Over a relatively short period, humans will either need to “migrate” to a silicon-based life form or get used to living like “pets” around much more intelligent species. At worst, humans can go extinct. It’s just evolution after all. Nature at play.

In Part II, I discuss where we are today and which scientific breakthrough is likely to happen first; Quantum or AI.

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