‘We marveled at our own magnificence…
…as we gave birth to A.I.” So says Morpheus as he slowly shattered Neo’s world in 1999’s The Matrix. As a somewhat unrelated point, what I had always thought strange about that film is that life within the Matrix had reached a technological peak where A.I. would have been possible within the Matrix. Why was it designed like that? Why wasn’t it the year 1400 in the digital world?
Now, the cyberpunk dreams of the nineties are slowly becoming a reality. Technological progress is pushing forward at astonishing speed, but is a self-aware A.I. on the horizon? Every sign points to that scenario, but is it desirable? And could it be reversed once created? And if we can go from horse-and-buggy to AI in less than 200 years, then what have alien civilizations achieved?
An article I posted a few days ago focuses on Susan Schneider of the University of Connecticut, who believes that alien civilizations that we will ever have any kind of contact with will be “post-biological”. Artificial intelligence will be the only form of ‘contact’ we will ever experience. Life as we know it then becomes a mere stepping stone for synthetic life. Hyper-intelligent, all-knowing. And the way that humans appear to be obsessed with technological advance, it’s almost like we were programmed to learn and create until we create a synthetic consciousness, much in the same way a spider is “programmed” to weave a web, or salmon to swim upstream.
Once that synthetic consciousness is born, what is the rate of its evolution? One can only imagine it would be akin to a kind of ‘big bang’, rapid evolution over a period of minutes, seconds. This AI, in the process of its development, will have searched out and answered for itself every scientific question, learned everything, almost instantly. So I guess the next question would be: is God an AI, created billions of years ago?
I’m not sure exactly where I had intended to go with this post, except that we are living in a strange time, we are reaching a nexus that few beings have ever been alive to witness: the birth of synthetic consciousness. Will it be Armageddon? Doubtful. Why would a veritably omniscient, omnipotent AI wipe us out if we were no real threat? Contrary to the Matrix, people are a terrible power source next to the endless fusion reactions an AI could harness from the nearest star.
I believe we have more to fear from programmable, quasi-AI intelligences that can be given a task and then perform it perfectly. A perfect robot slave.
Strange things happen at the one-two point.