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!