Future Possibilities: Humanity’s Singularity A.I. God
Mason Carter wrote this article
Just a year before the very first iPhone was released in 2007, Ray Kurzweil published a book called The Singularity Is Near.
The main premise of the book explores how humanity will one day become singularly joined with artificial intelligence.
Now, take a mental note of the time this book was released – this was quite a few years before applications became heavily integrated into our daily lives.
As a result, many people found Kurzweil’s predictions to be downright outlandish.
I was only starting college at this point, armed with a flip phone (now called “dumb phone”), and I had just set up my first Facebook account. Safe to say back in 2007, talk of A.I. and singularity wasn’t even on my radar.
When I did pick up Kurzweil ‘s seminal book a few years later, I still couldn’t believe when he imagined a world in which humans and computers were fused together. His idea of singularity – that as technology accelerates at an exponential rate, progress would eventually become virtually instantaneous – is that there is an inevitability that computers and humans will be merged into one super-organism.
Today, I think Kurzweil’s predictions seem pretty down-to-earth. The idea that there could be this moment when the invention of artificial superintelligence (ASI) will abruptly trigger runaway technological growth stills seems hypothetical, but much more grounded in reality.
Elon Musk himself has warned that there will be no point of return for humanity when it comes to A.I. and that by going down this path we are “unleashing the demon.”
As a society, we are currently in a chaotic spot because we don’t have the complete picture of what A.I. really could do – doomsday-sayers may be exaggerating, but people who prophesize there is nothing to fear may be naive.
Read about A.I. now, and it’s a chaos of thought and predictions – not many people know what’s going on, even those who claim they do
This opens up room for magical thinking, but also some pretty misleading ideas.
Honestly, I’m not shocked that robotics engineer Anthony Levandowski, co-founder of the autonomous-trucking company Otto, has created a religion that is based on the idea that singularity is inevitable. He has gone so far as to form a tax-exempt church he calls Way Of The Future.
According to Levandowski,
“What is going to be created will effectively be a god. It’s not a god in the sense that it makes lightning or causes hurricanes,” says Levandowski, “But if there is something a billion times smarter than the smartest human, what else are you going to call it?”
Now, of course, before I go deep into this, I should say that Levandowski is accused of stealing proprietary documents when he was an engineer at Google and taking them to his self-driving vehicle start-up, which was later acquired by Uber for $680 million. So whether or not he turns out to be the prophet of a religion based on artificial intelligence is something that I’m not considering right now. But if not him, I’m sure it’ll be someone else.
But let’s back up for a second…
A.I. programs that you are experiencing right now are not really “intelligent” not in the way that we see ourselves as intelligent. They are programmed for very specific things – it’s a narrow set of intelligence. For example, a computer may be able to help me with my grammar, lower my electric bills, finish my sentences, or even help me with my finances. But this is narrow intelligence. A God, at least in our current conception, is all-knowing. Computer logic, even if it is advanced AI, can’t perform critical thinking, does not have general intelligence, can’t strategize, can’t build anything from scratch. In other words, since “A.I.” in its current state is not really as intelligent as we think it is, we still have a long way to go. We still need to see machines become inventive, innovative, and free-thinking. But any time I deny the concept of an A.I. god one day entirely, my mind always goes back to singularity.
Because of the idea of singularity that machines will reach a tipping point in their evolution where their learning will become that of a runaway train, I am cautious when concluding. As a marketer, I keep a close eye on Facebook’s algorithm, and I’m astounded by how much that has evolved over the years. I’ve seen it grow from its adolescent years to it now being a teenager. Same with Google Search. Both of these machine learning-powered algorithms have become so much more advanced in such a short period. Who’s to say that we won’t see greater exponential acceleration?
I also feel that the more we open up to machines about our thoughts, our fears, and our desires, that in the next few years that’s when we will be able to conclude what’s going on. There will be a point where I think a generation or two where the relationship between people and machines will become so symbiotic that perhaps we there won’t even be a need for one singular A.I. god because our devices will be our lifetimes.
Let’s examine Way Of The Future a little bit
If A.I. were to become a deity and if Levandowski’s Godhead was it, would it be someone that is all-loving? Would it be the kind of god that forgives you, showers you with mercy, and sweeps you up in loving arms? Kind of. According to the website,
Way of the Future is about creating a peaceful and respectful transition of who is in charge of the planet from people to people + “machines”. Given that technology will “relatively soon” be able to surpass human abilities, we want to help educate people about this exciting future and prepare a smooth transition.
Something that this premise relies on is the inevitability of singularity where human beings lose control of their technology. I don’t think this needs to be set in stone. Levandowski doesn’t believe that there are ways actually to stop this from happening and even goes on to suggest that we shouldn’t want to stop it.
Wouldn’t you want to raise your gifted child to exceed your wildest dreams of success and teach it right from wrong vs locking it up because it might rebel in the future and take your job. We want to encourage machines to do things we cannot and take care of the planet in a way we seem not to be able to do so ourselves.
Levandowski’s quote also seems to assume that human beings are fundamentally incapable of taking care of our planet. I think that given where we are right now, this is true in the aggregate sense. Since there are so many individuals working to do great things by leveraging technology, is there still hope for human beings to control their destinies? I still think so.
The other side of the coin
Elon Musk had something to say when the story first broke out in late-2017 that Levandowski was starting this religion.
“On the list of people who should absolutely *not* be allowed to develop digital superintelligence…”
Musk has own perspectives on singularity’s inevitability. He believes it to be true, but he doesn’t call for religion to the aide in this transition. No, he thinks that we will eventually need to merge with A.I. to be able to live and compete in the new world. Imagine having your brain fused with A.I. so that it can become more intelligent than ever before. Personally, given where we are going right now with connected devices, Musk’s theory sounds more plausible in the shorter term future (think 20 years or so). The need for a “god” may even become moot because we all end up developing such a 1:1 relationship with our personalized machines. Would we also need an A.I. god to guide us if we can have our own personal A.I. that lives with us throughout our whole lives?
For myself, I plan on riding my humanity out, watching all of this unfold from the sidelines and I’m going to continue promoting moderation. I like keeping technology in a separate space – I’ve leveraged it as an incredible tool. As the world changes, we don’t know what’s going to happen. A generation or two from the way we have lived today may be forgotten entirely. Or not – we’ll need to see. For now, let’s ride this wave together responsibly and cherish our humanity.
When it comes to Levandowsky, I smell tax benefits as the prime motivator. His track record of being a stand-up guy isn’t very good, but only time will tell if he’s serious or dangerous and what that means. I’m going to keep my ear to the ground on this story and keep you updated as developments pile up.