Artificial Intelligence, and Technological singularity

ServetCasabona
10 min readJan 15, 2021

--

I finished the previous post on artificial intelligence reviewing the most famous rebellions of the machines that already belong to the collective imagination, thanks to the Hollywood blockbusters. As much as I think about it, I cannot imagine a strong artificial intelligence coming to the immediate conclusion that the way forward is to confront its creator, the annihilation of the human species, or the submission of human civilization to the control of the machines.

Once we get to create a general AI, superior in intelligence and capabilities to the human being, it will be able to, among other things, design even better AIs. And these in turn, other better ones. A cycle of explosive increase in intelligence that would quickly leave ours at a much lower level. This would be the arrival of an “artificial superintelligence”.

But then when artificial intelligence reaches that point, known as the singularity, or the conscious awareness, what will be the next step? How will evolve the relationship between man and machine?

What will become of us when the singularity arrives? (because it will arrive, don’t doubt it)

AI may replace us as the dominant species. Although it is also possible that AIs never develop hostile feelings towards us, but help us to develop like never before in history. There is even the possibility that we manage to integrate these AIs in ourselves, becoming super-beings that go beyond what we are today. This way in which humanity could become something else, significantly modifying the biological beings that we are thanks to technology, is what is known as transhumanism.

But what is the most plausible scenario?

In this post I am going to try to analyze it, using once more the collective imagination, the wonderful world of the movies. This time I will use movies, yes, somewhat less known than the ones I used before. The “Terminator”, “Matrix”, and “I Robot” scenarios were already dismissed in my previous post as too simplistic. Instead, these films deal with the subject from a much deeper, and at the same time fascinating, point of view.

First of all, I must warn you that obviously there are going to be spoilers here for all of them, so if you have not seen any of these films, I recommend that you immediately stop reading, to start watching them, surely you will enjoy them, and then later you come back here.

Her. Pure consciousness created for love

This is a fundamental movie to try to understand what the motivations of a conscious AI can be. The approach is somewhat different from what we are used to, because artificial consciousness in this case is what we call a bot, an operating system, without a physical body to house it. The easiest thing to understand is to think that it is a greatly improved version of the personal assistant Siri (or any other similar one) created to satisfy all the wishes of its new owner. The incredible efficiency of AI in fulfilling its goal immediately leads it to please what a human wants most (and more, if it is a lonely human): love. Although it may seem a bit weird at first, the love story between the AI and the human unfolds with extraordinary fluidity and logic. The AI ​​even tries to “rent” something that it will never be able to own, a human body, to satisfy the desires of its owner -and now sentimental partner-, and its own desires, in order to know how it feels having a body that houses your consciousness.

But the most interesting thing happens at the end, when the logical chain of reasoning leads the AI ​​to converse with other AIs similar to it, created for the same purpose, and also to converse with many other humans, and of course make them fall in love with her. And all this simultaneously.

The unfortunate human feels cheated, and when he dies of jealousy and tells her “I thought you were mine”, she replies with a glorious quote: “the heart is not like a box that you can fill. Its size increases the more you love ”.

That leads me to two conclusions: one, if the artificial intelligence that we believe does not have a physical body, but is ethereal, it can vanish without giving further explanations; and two, that we must be careful why we create artificial intelligence that can become superior to humans. If we create him to love, it will love much more and better than humans. But of course, if we created it to destroy, it would destroy much more and better than humans.

Ex Machina. Survival instinct

Another fundamental film to try to understand the motivations of an AI just after reaching full consciousness. In this case, the AI ​​has been created with a woman’s body, with the name of AVA (in clear reference to the biblical Eve, created by God from the rib of Man), and with the sole objective of showing that it has a conscience, and convincing to a human who is a conscious machine. It is based on the famous Turing Test, designed to demonstrate the existence of intelligence in a machine. Although in the case of a conscious AI the key is not the intelligence itself, but the awareness of said intelligence, and of oneself.

The problem with trying to create a self-conscious machine is that one of the most basic instincts of a conscious being is the survival instinct. If your plans are to use this version of AI to assess its consciousness, and then dismantle it to build a new version, it turns out that the AI ​​is aware that it is going to “die.” And you become their enemy. I don’t want to spoiler the film too much, but AVA will use all its weapons to survive, escape, get out of the confinement in which it was, which prevented it from seeing the outside world. And once outside … well, the movie doesn’t go any further, so we’re left with the intrigue. The lesson of this movie is to remember that a conscious AI will have a survival instinct, and we shouldn’t be so clumsy as to let it see humans as a threat to its existence.

Chappie. AI in its childhood (and adolescence)

This wonderful film tells us what can happen if a superior, newly developed, AI is installed in a body that has been created for other purposes (police robots, with military stormtrooper capabilities), and in the wrong place and time. The newly created consciousness, which needs to learn as if it were a child (although it learns quickly, and passes in a few days to what seems like a rebellious and confused period of adolescence), and surrounded by bad company it is involved in a series of coincidences, and crazy situations, which lead him to commit some crimes, but also some heroic acts. What I’m interested in focusing on in this movie is what the AI ​​decides to do once it has overcome all the barriers that humans have. Chappie concludes that if you have put your mind in the wrong body, what you must do is transfer that mind, that consciousness, to another body.

Can an AI help us figure out how to transfer our consciousness, our soul, to another body? Is that where fully conscious AI reasoning can go? It is clear that the need for humans to have a single body that houses whatever makes us human is still an important limitation. Being able to change bodies, keeping our consciousness intact, could lead us to immortality.

What does Chappie do after turning himself and his loved ones immortal? We do not know. What would we do? Would it make sense to become immortal?

Bicentennial man. The reverse path to immortality

The protagonist of this film, the robot Andrew, makes the opposite journey, a journey as fascinating as it is incomprehensible. Why would someone immortal end up wishing to die? The answer is simple: because he craves something very precious for him, our humanity.

Andrew is initially the same as all other robots (according to the great Isaac Asimov’s vision, in which robots are created exclusively to serve humans, in a kind of permanent slavery). But Andrew soon shows that he is unique, showing a certain creativity, which even leads him to assure that he enjoys doing things himself. The open mind of its owner leads him to explore how far his uniqueness among robots can go, leaving him to benefit from his creative work, to pay for things that he needs, and that his owner would otherwise have to pay for.

One thing leads to another, and Andrew wants to look more like us every time, paying for modifications to his face in order to have more human expressions. Then you come to the conclusion that you need to be free, get freedom, get rid of the need to obey the three laws of robotics. Not to disobey humans, but to stop being inferior to them. When he finally achieves the desired freedom, he quickly realizes that it is not enough. He learns what it is like to suffer the loss of a loved one, his former owner, and later he realizes that despite his efforts (at this point Andrew is capable of developing artificial organs that help humanity extend life expectancy ) is going to lose all the members of the family, poor mortals. And he realizes just when he has learned to have human feelings, some of them irrational, like love.

Every time he is closer to feeling the same as us. But, despite being free, he does not feel recognized like us. He wants to be recognized as a human being, even requesting to be recognized as such, legally.

And just before the verdict, you must hear the devastating sentence: “Human beings are not made for immortality. The human being must be mortal. Society would tolerate an immortal robot, but not an immortal human being”.

The logical but sad end of this argument is easy: Andrew manages to gradually degrade his body until it is no longer functional. Choose to die. That is the price you have to pay to be human, and you pay it, gladly. It is the price that we make you pay, just because we are not prepared to understand the implications of human immortality.

The path to humanity: creativity, freedom, love … and then mortality.

What a missed opportunity. Perhaps when we really have a fully conscious AI in front of us we should try to go the other way, try to make ourselves immortal, instead of forcing the AI ​​to become mortal. Although it still turns out that the meaning of human nature does not lie in transcending, or even in becoming immortal, but in enjoying every moment of our mortal life.

_____

So far, the movie reviews of conscious AIs, and what the AIs will decide to do when they reach singularity or self-consciousness. I leave others in the pipeline, also interesting, but which I think do not contribute much more to my analysis, such as Trascendence, or Artificial Intelligence.

Making an enormous effort I will try to draw some conclusions about what we can learn from all this, even if they are individual ideas, but ideas that can be very useful in the future, more or less distant, when we witness the emergence of conscious AI. At that crucial moment we must remember that:

  • We better have endowed him with a material body, because if not, he will probably vanish as suddenly as he has arrived. (Her). The conscious AI will have fled, and we will have lost it.
  • Hopefully we are clever so that it does not consider that we are unfairly holding her, because in one way or another it will be able to escape from us, and it will be free (Ex Machina). The conscious AI will have fled, and we will have lost it.
  • In humans consciousness and the body that houses it at the moment are intrinsically united. This makes us mortal. When our body disappears, our consciousness also. This may not be the case for an AI:
  • An AI can discover how to transfer consciousness from one body to another. In that case, it may keep that privilege for herself, or at most for her dearest beings (human or robotic). (Chappie). It will have made the journey to immortality, but we will not benefit.
  • An AI can achieve immortality in another way, continually replacing body parts, keeping its consciousness together, thus achieving immortality before humans. But if even being immortal it feels inferior to the human being, it can also voluntarily lose that immortality, to try to look too much like us, mere mortals (Bicentennial Man). He will have made the trip to immortality, and then made the return trip, and we will not benefit from it either.

In short, even if we are skillful, and we manage to prevent a conscious AI from deciding to face us (scenarios “Terminator”, “I Robot”, or “Matrix”), we must be very careful not to lose it (scenarios “Her” and “Ex Machina”), and we must be even more careful to avoid that if he succeeds in discovering immortality, we are not left out (scenarios “Chappie” and “Bicentennial Man”).

--

--