Request for concrete AI takeover mechanisms

Any scenario where advanced AI takes over the world requires some mechanism for an AI to leverage its position as ethereal resident of a computer somewhere into command over a lot of physical resources.

One classic story of how this could happen, from Eliezer:

  1. Crack the protein folding problem, to the extent of being able to generate DNA strings whose folded peptide sequences fill specific functional roles in a complex chemical interaction.

  2. Email sets of DNA strings to one or more online laboratories which offer DNA synthesis, peptide sequencing, and FedEx delivery. (Many labs currently offer this service, and some boast of 72-hour turnaround times.)

  3. Find at least one human connected to the Internet who can be paid, blackmailed, or fooled by the right background story, into receiving FedExed vials and mixing them in a specified environment.

  4. The synthesized proteins form a very primitive “wet” nanosystem which, ribosomelike, is capable of accepting external instructions; perhaps patterned acoustic vibrations delivered by a speaker attached to the beaker.

  5. Use the extremely primitive nanosystem to build more sophisticated systems, which construct still more sophisticated systems, bootstrapping to molecular nanotechnology—or beyond.

You can do a lot of reasoning about AI takeover without any particular picture of how the world gets taken over. Nonetheless it would be nice to have an understanding of these possible routes. For preparation purposes, and also because a concrete, plausible pictures of doom are probably more motivating grounds for concern than abstract arguments.

So MIRI is interested in making a better list of possible concrete routes to AI taking over the world. And for this, we ask your assistance.

What are some other concrete AI takeover mechanisms? If an AI did not have a solution to the protein folding problem, and a DNA synthesis lab to write off to, what else might it do?

We would like suggestions that take an AI from being on an internet-connected computer to controlling substantial physical resources, or having substantial manufacturing ability.

We would especially like suggestions which are plausible given technology that normal scientists would expect in the next 15 years. So limited involvement of advanced nanotechnology and quantum computers would be appreciated.

We welcome partial suggestions, e.g. ‘you can take control of a self-driving car from the internet—probably that could be useful in some schemes’.

Thank you!