AI will be fine

Artificial intelligence will probably save lives, make lives better, and not destroy all of humanity.

On the one hand I just want to believe this. On the other hand there seems to be evidence that it’s true.

First, AI will save lives by a direct substitution of hardware/software for human labor. An explosion that would kill a mine worker would destroy a robot instead (raising questions about the personhood of software but clearly saving the flesh-and-blood person). A network of self-driving trucks will make fewer bad driving decisions than a network of tired human truckers.

Second, intelligence in humans seems to have increased at around the same time as violence in humans has decreased. If intelligence causes people to behave in less violent ways (arguable but plausible), then a piece of software exponentially smarter than a human might be at least somewhat less violent than a human.

For example, advanced AI can create better weapons, but it might also be less eager to launch them. Enter this classic xkcd:

I don’t worry about the rise of artificial intelligence from an extinction-of-the-human-species perspective. I do worry about it from the perspective of standards of living and human purpose, which are a lot harder to come by if virtually all work is done by technology. That’s a social problem that’s a century or so away, but we’re probably already seeing early signs of it.

By all means, worry about AI if you’re in a social/economic/demographic position where that’s your most imminent worry. But worry for the right reasons.

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