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Armen-Gurgen Movsesyan
Writ 340
Ben Pack
The Consequences of Developing Super-Intelligent Machines

Robots can outperform humans in any physical task from assembling a

car to lifting heavy weights. Artificial intelligence allows computers to
calculate immense mathematical problems and navigate our cars perfectly,
as seen with the Google Car. But the question remains whether these
machines can ever exhibit human level intelligence and demonstrate
sentient behavior.
Complex algorithms which run our smartphones will continue to
improve. Voice recognition interfaces and intelligent personal assistants like
Apples Siri have given us an insight to the future roles our smartphones
will play. As the Acceleration Studies Foundation reported in their Five Eyes
Workshop in 2015, the complexity of these AI technologies are increasing at
an exponential rate, with no foreseeable peak (Acceleration Studies
Foundation.) The limit to the application of this type of technology is virtually
boundless and researchers are seeking ambitious ways to push artificial
intelligence beyond simple data-retrieval and calculation.

The Brain and Mind Institute founded the Blue Brain Project in 2005
which uses the Blue Gene Supercomputer to model the neural networks in
the mammalian brain. In a TED conference in Oxford in 2009, Henry
Markram, director of the project, revealed that his team is shooting for a
complete model of the human brain by 2020 (Markram.) Markram explains
that the completion of the project will not only demystify the concept of
consciousness but allow us to communicate to a functioning, synthetic
human entity on Blue Genes system. This possibility suggests that this
virtual brain could develop a unique personality and be self-aware.

The Terminators are Coming

The idea of a digital entity communicating to us using a virtual brain is

freaky, but it gets more bizarre. Once bionic limbs have advanced to where
they can accommodate every motor connection between it and this virtual
brain, artificial humanoids could roam the same streets as biological
humans. These artificial humanoids would live a completely different reality,
one in which they can consume data, upgrade their bionic limbs and,
theoretically, extend their life-spans indefinitely. These beings will not
require organic food or exercise and could attain their energy from numerous
other power sources. Because they could constantly upgrade their
mechanical bodies they could easily surpass the physical abilities of any

human. Hugo de Garis, a leading scientist behind the Blue Brain Project in
Beijing, uses the analogy of a human smacking a mosquito on his arm to
convey how these artificial beings will view us (Transcended Man.) De Garis
explains that We kill it, and we dont give a damn because we feel theyre
so inferior. De Garis admits that although the point in time when these
super-intelligent beings will begin to self-improve is widely debated amongst
his colleagues, trends in artificial intelligence development and the progress
made by his team guarantees the event to occur.
Coined by science-fiction author Vernor Vinge, the singularity
describes the point in time when AI systems will surpass human intelligence
and continue to develop exponentially. Once the machines reach and pass
this event horizon, the consequences will be irreversible. The machines will
self-improve independent of the human race, and the compounded effect of
a self-improving machine enhancing other self-improving machines will result
in a level of intelligence inconceivable to humans. The disparities between
how humans and machines live and the growing gap between their
intelligence and our own will put into question the value of human existence.
We will have to come to terms with the idea that human beings are no longer
superior. Many experts such as artificial intelligence engineer Ben Goertzel,
express concern that once these machines begin to exponentially enhance
their bodies and intelligence, the value of human beings will seem
insignificant (Transcended Man.)

However, the super-intelligent machine may not have the same

perception of value. It is impossible to predict the moral system the
machines may develop. The machines may not find human life necessary.
They could coexist with us, or eliminate us entirely. Goertzel predicts that
regardless of how these machines will perceive us, they will likely overtake
governing bodies, markets and other institutions. Just as all of our personal
data is saved for eternity on the virtual cloud, the machines will have
complete knowledge of our lives. The machines could predict and control our
behavior effortlessly. De Garis admits that there is a huge risk that the
machines could become hostile towards mankind. Best known for his concept
of the Artilect War, he foresees a conflict between an organization which
proposes that the super-intelligent machines never be created and another
which considers the creation of this Artificial Intellect a part of their
religion. De Garis admits that he belongs with the latter group and will risk
human extinction to create this machine.
The risk of human extinction vastly increases at each epoch of
technological development. The United Sates federal government sanctioned
the weaponization of their atom-smashing technology after discovering
similar projects in Germany. The Manhattan Project, which originally involved
researching the use of fissionable materials in factories, grew into a weapons
project, exacerbating the race to build the atom-bomb. In that regard,
nothing can guarantee that post-singularity technologies will not lead to an
arms-race. Although Hungarian physicists Lo Szilrd, Eugene Wigner and

Albert Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the destructive

capabilities of the atom-smashing technology in 1939, several bombs were
developed by the early 1940s. Nothing stopped Russian and American
scientists in the Cold War era, just as AI and robotics developers continue
their research despite the risks.
While functional humanoid robots already exist, such as Hondas
Asimo, none demonstrate sentient intelligence or the capacity for creative
problem solving. These robots can perform basic tasks like retrieving objects
or guiding you to a requested location, but cannot function outside of their
programmed parameters. This level of intelligence is comparable to that of
an insect which makes simple decisions based on external sensory input.
Current robots like Asimo cannot pose a threat to human survival (unless
they all simultaneously malfunction and explode) until they develop a
cognitive capacity similar to our own.
Raymond Kurzweil, inventor, futurist and leading spokesperson behind
the singularity suggests that the real challenge will be guaranteeing that
these machines hold a basic set of moral values similar to our own
(Transcended Man.) If developers of the machine can integrate this moral
system into the machines before they become self-aware, it may ensure that
the machines will desire to coexist peacefully with the human race. Although
Kurzweil does discuss this strategy against human extinction, he does not
wish to stifle development of these humanoids, like de Garis and other AI
developers. Kurzweil focuses more on the applications of the coming

singularity, such as life extension and cognitive augmentation (The

Singularity is Near 198.) More importantly, how can the human race benefit
from the singularity and can our race defend itself against this potential godlike foe?

Blood, Sweat and Gears

Kurzweil popularized the idea that our brains and personalities can
soon be uploaded on servers and backed-up (The Singularity is Near 190.)
Much like the being that will be created by Markram and his team, your
virtual version will freely roam cyberspace using different virtual bodies. Your
brain could then be transferred to a robot body and we could live very similar
lives alongside our machine brethren. Kurzweil predicts we will have access
to this brain-transferring technology in 2030. He also argues that the period
between the completion of the Blue Brain Project in 2020 and the availability
of brain-transferring technology will allow ample time for the technology to
become accepted and affordable to the average customer. Before the
singularity in 2045, the brains of a large portion of the human population
may already exist on servers. Our virtual brains and the synthetic brains will
live in the same world, making us better prepared should the machines
decide to become hostile and rapidly self-improve for the purpose of
dominating the human race

The good news is we can begin to enhance our own biology before the
completion of the virtual brain using cybernetic and nanotechnologies which
will become available in the next few years (Heller and Peterson.) Jacob
Heller and Christine Peterson, researchers at the Foresight Institute discuss
the long-term goal of cybernetic nanotechnologies, which primarily involve
disease prevention and life-extension through manipulation of molecular and
atomic structures in the body. However, they admit that these technologies
can and will open the door to other enhancements of the body better IQ,
appearance, and capabilities. They predict that the more controversial
enhancements would involve unnatural enhancements to the human body
like extreme intelligence and memory capacity, significantly heightened
sense of awareness, astonishing athletic capability and strength, and beauty
enhancements. Using these enhancements to mimic we can take
preemptive measures to deter or respond to threats made by the superintelligent machine.

Time Deals New Wounds

Our biological enhancements may never measure up to progress made

by the machines. Our virtual copies have a better shot at bridging this gap
because they can adapt methods of self-improvement akin to those used by
the machines. Regardless of whether or not the singularity occurs at the

predicted time, we must consider all possible consequences. The singularity

may lead to the development of weapons technologies more destructive
than the atom bomb. It may even create a race of super-intelligent beings
which whom we may go to war or coexist. As leading experts in the field
admit, they will not stop their research until they reach their goal of creating
this sentient machine. Without necessary preparation, the events that follow
the creation of the machine will overwhelm the human world.
After the singularity, what we regard today as works of fiction, like Star
Wars, and I, Robot, will be prophecies. With the technologies that result from
the singularity, we can transcend all our biological limitations, travel the
cosmos freely, create homes on other planets and harness the radiation from
stars for infinite source of energy. More importantly, we will understand the
origins of consciousness and appreciate new forms of intelligence. We may
even discover that artificial intelligence and human intelligence may be one
of the same.

Works Cited:
Heller, Jacob, and Christine Peterson. "Human Enhancement and
Nanotechnology." Human Enhancement and Nanotechnology.
Foresight Institute - Advancing Beneficial Nanotechnology, n.d. Web.
26 Feb. 2015.
Kurzweil, Raymond. "Chapter 4: Achieving the Software of Human
Intelligence." The Singularity Is Near. Ray Kurzweil, 2005. 175-196.
Kurzweil, Raymond.
Markram, Henry. "Henry Markram and the Blue Brain Project."
Supercomputing the Brain's Secrets. Proc. of TED Talk, University of
Oxford, Oxford. TED, 15 Oct. 2009. Web.
Smart, John. Analytical Education in 2020. Acceleration Studies Foundation.
N.p., Mar. 2015. Web. 2015.
Transcended Man. Dir. Barry Ptolemy. Perf. Ray Kurzweil. Ptolemaic
Productions and Therapy Studios, 2009. Online.