Will Robots Dream of Electric Anythings?


Today Paul Waldman interviews James Barrat, author of Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era. I thought this was an interesting assertion:

Furthermore, at an advanced level, as I write in Our Final Invention, citing the work of AI-maker and theorist Steve Omohundro, artificial intelligence will have drives much like our own, including self-protection and resource acquisition. It will want to achieve its goals and marshal sufficient resources to do so. It will want to avoid being turned off. When its goals collide with ours it will have no basis for valuing our goals, and use whatever means are at its disposal for achieving its goals.

But why? Animals have these drives because we evolved them. In the biological world, these are extremely survival-adaptive traits, and species that have them will outbreed species that don’t. But they have nothing to do with intelligence or consciousness. They’re mindless drives that we possess for no reason except that all of our ancestors possessed them and then passed them down to us.

Intelligent machines might end up having these drives, but then again, they might not. There’s no special reason that an AI construct would be especially curious, or fearful of death, or expansion-minded, or any of the other things we almost automatically associate with intelligence. Intelligent machines might not care one way or the other if they’re shut off. They might not want more resources. They might not care about running the world. All of these mindless drives that so dominate biological life might be matters of no urgency at all to a machine that didn’t evolve them.

Then again, they might be. But I don’t think it’s inevitable.

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate