STREET DOG

Business Day - - THE BOTTOM LINE - ● Michel Pireu (pireum@street­dogs.co.za)

There is a lot of con­fu­sion about what ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) means or doesn’t mean, es­pe­cially in places like Sil­i­con Val­ley.

For me, the big­gest con­fu­sion is be­tween in­tel­li­gence and con­scious­ness. Ninety-five per­cent of sci­ence fic­tion movies are based on the er­ror that AI will be ar­ti­fi­cial con­scious­ness. They as­sume that ro­bots will have emo­tions, will feel things, that hu­mans will fall in love with them, or that they will want to de­stroy us. This is not true.

In­tel­li­gence is not con­scious­ness. In­tel­li­gence is the abil­ity to solve prob­lems. Con­scious­ness is the abil­ity to feel things. In hu­mans and other an­i­mals, the two go to­gether. For mam­mals, our emo­tions and sen­sa­tions are an in­te­gral part of the way we solve prob­lems. In the case of com­put­ers, we don’t see the two go­ing to­gether.

Over the past few decades, there has been im­mense de­vel­op­ment in com­puter in­tel­li­gence and ex­actly zero de­vel­op­ment in com­puter con­scious­ness. There is ab­so­lutely no rea­son to think that com­put­ers are any­where near de­vel­op­ing con­scious­ness. They might be mov­ing along a very dif­fer­ent tra­jec­tory than mam­malian evo­lu­tion. In the case of mam­mals, evo­lu­tion has driven mam­mals to­wards greater in­tel­li­gence by way of con­scious­ness, but in the case of com­put­ers, they might be pro­gress­ing along a par­al­lel and very dif­fer­ent route to in­tel­li­gence that just doesn't in­volve con­scious­ness at all.

We may find our­selves in a world with non­con­scious su­per in­tel­li­gence. The ques­tion is not whether hu­mans will fall in love with ro­bots or whether ro­bots will try to kill hu­mans. The big ques­tion is: how does a world of non­con­scious su­per in­tel­li­gence look? We have noth­ing in his­tory that pre­pares us for such a sce­nario.

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