My long fascination with Artificial Intelligence came to a head in 2000, when I interviewed inventor Ray Kurzweil, roboticist Rodney Brooks, and sci-fi legend Arthur C. Clarke. Kurzweil and Brooks were casually optimistic about a future they considered inevitable – a time when we will share the planet with intelligent machines. “It won’t be some alien invasion of robots coming over the hill,” Kurzweil told me, “because they’ll be made by us.” In his compound in Sri Lanka, Clarke wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s just a matter of time before machines dominate mankind,” he said. “Intelligence will win out.”
Intelligence, not charm or beauty, is the special power that enables humans to dominate Earth. Now, propelled by a powerful economic wind, scientists are developing intelligent machines. Each year intelligence grows closer to shuffling off its biological coil and taking on an infinitely faster and more powerful synthetic one. But before machine intelligence matches our own, we have a chance. We must develop a science for understanding and coexisting with smart, even superintelligent machines. If we fail, we’ll be stuck in an unwinnable dilemma. We’ll have to rely on the kindness of machines to survive. Will machines naturally love us and protect us?
Should we bet our existence on it?
Our Final Invention is about what can go wrong with the development and application of advanced AI. It’s about AI’s catastrophic downside, one you’ll never hear about from Google, Apple, IBM, and DARPA. I think it’s the most important conversation of our time, and I hope you’ll join in.
OUR FINAL INVENTION: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era
Artificial Intelligence helps choose what books you buy, what movies you see, and even who you date. It’s in your smart phone, your car, and it has the run of your house. It makes most of the trades on Wall Street, and controls our transportation, energy, and water infrastructure. Artificial Intelligence is for the 21st century what electricity was for the 20th and steam power for the 19th.
But there’s one critical difference — electricity and steam will never outthink you.
The Hollywood cliché that artificial intelligence will take over the world could soon become scientific reality as AI matches then surpasses human intelligence. Each year AI’s cognitive speed and power doubles — ours does not. Corporations and government agencies are pouring billions into achieving AI’s Holy Grail — human-level intelligence. Scientists argue that AI that advanced will have survival drives much like our own. Can we share the planet with it and survive?
Our Final Invention explores how the pursuit of Artificial Intelligence challenges our existence with machines that won’t love us or hate us, but whose indifference could spell our doom. Until now, intelligence has been constrained by the physical limits of its human hosts. What will happen when the brakes come off the most powerful force in the universe?
See also my interview on this podcast, a project of economics professor James Miller. The two key technologies which will shape the future are AI and genetic engineering.