(Notations, non-standard concepts, and definitions used commonly in these investigations are detailed in this post.)
A Economist: The return of the machinery question
In a Special Report on Artificial Intelligence in its issue of 25th June 2016, ‘The return of the machinery question‘, the Economist suggests that both cosmologist Stephen Hawking and enterpreneur Elon Musk share to some degree the:
“… fear that AI poses an existential threat to humanity, because superintelligent computers might not share mankind’s goals and could turn on their creators”.
B Our irrational propensity to fear that which we are drawn to embrace
Surprising, since I suspect both would readily agree that, if anything should scare us, it is our irrational propensity to fear that which we are drawn to embrace!
And therein should lie not only our comfort, but perhaps also our salvation.
For Artificial Intelligence is constrained by rationality; Human Intelligence is not.
An Artificial Intelligence must, whether individually or collectively, create and/or destroy only rationally. Humankind can and does, both individually and collectively, create and destroy irrationally.
C Justifying irrationality
For instance, as the legatees of logicians Kurt Goedel and Alfred Tarski have amply demonstrated, a Human Intelligence can easily be led to believe that some statements of even the simplest of mathematical languages—Arithmetic—must be both ‘formally undecidable’ and ‘true’, even in the absence of any objective yardstick for determining what is ‘true’!
D Differentiating between Human reasoning and Mechanistic reasoning
An Artificial Intelligence, however, can only treat as true that which can be proven—by its rules—to be true by an objective assignment of ‘truth’ and ‘provability’ values to the propositions of the language that formally expresses its mechanical operations—Arithmetic.
The implications of the difference are not obvious; but that the difference could be significant is the thesis of this paper which is due to appear in the December 2016 issue of Cognitive Systems Research:
E Respect for evidence-based ‘truth’ could be Darwinian
More importantly, the paper demonstrates that both Human Intelligence—whose evolution is accepted as Darwinian—and Artificial Intelligence—whose evolution it is ‘feared’ may be Darwinian—share a common (Darwinian?) respect for an accountable concept of ‘truth’.
“… importance of the rapport between an organism and its environment”
—an environment that can obviously accommodate the birth, and nurture the evolution, of both intelligences.
So, it may not be too far-fetched to conjecture that the evolution of both intelligences must also, then, share a Darwinian respect for the kind of human values—towards protecting intelligent life forms—that, no matter in how limited or flawed a guise, is visibly emerging as an inherent characteristic of a human evolution which, no matter what the cost could, albeit optimistically, be viewed as struggling to incrementally strengthen, and simultaneously integrate, individualism (fundamental particles) into nationalism (atoms) into multi-nationalism (molecules) and, possibly, into universalism (elements).
F The larger question: Should we fear an extra-terrestrial Intelligence?
From a broader perspective yet, our apprehensions about the evolution of a rampant Artificial Intelligence created by a Frankensteinian Human Intelligence should, perhaps, more rightly be addressed—as some have urged—within the larger uncertainty posed by SETI:
I would argue that any answer would depend on how we articulate the question and that, in order to engage in a constructive and productive debate, we need to question—and reduce to a minimum—some of our most cherished mathematical and scientific beliefs and fears which cannot be communicated objectively.