Saturday, September 22, 2007

Super-smart Artificial Intelligence by 2030

I really, really hate articles like this one by Ronald Bailey of Reason:
By 2030, or by 2050 at the latest, will a super-smart artificial intelligence decide to keep humans around as pets? Will it instead choose to turn the entire Earth, including the messy organic bits like us, into computronium? Or is there a third alternative?
Please. 2030 is only 23 years from now, as far into the future as 1984 is into the past. Life just doesn't progress that fast. In 1984 we had the beginnings of personal PCs. We had an pseudo-intelligent telecommunications network -- AT&T's CCS7 signaling network had been in effect for about a year. The Internet existed and email, especially on a single computer, was well-established. I exchanged my first IM-type messages over the Internet sometime like 1985 or 1986, while a graduate student at Stony Brook.

Yes, there have been amazing advances since then, mostly in networking, in the development of HTML and Web browsers and all kinds of transactions over the Web. We now have cell phones and wireless communication most places.

But really there hasn't been all that much change. Especially in the arena of artificial intelligence. I do not feel threatened by robots or artificial intelligence any more now than I did in 1985. I spend absolutely no time worrying that some robotic intelligence is plotting to undo me and turn me into a biological slave. Robots are still not a part of our daily life, or even tangential to our lives. They are good at helping make cars, and some other basic manufacturing tasks. In no way do they threaten to undo us all.

I'm sure Reason spent a lot of money to send Ron Bailey to the Singularity Summit in San Francisco, and he had to come through with a provocative article. But we're not more threatened by robots in 2030 than we are by genetically engineered kittens. Try to calm down, please.

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