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.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

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In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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