Top 9+2 myths about AI risk
Following some somewhat misleading articles quoting me, I thought I’d present the top 9 myths about the AI risk thesis:
That we’re certain AI will doom us. Certainly not. It’s very hard to be certain of anything involving a technology that doesn’t exist; we’re just claiming that the probability of AI going bad isn’t low enough that we can ignore it.
That humanity will survive, because we’ve always survived before. Many groups of humans haven’t survived contact with more powerful intelligent agents. In the past, those agents were other humans; but they need not be. The universe does not owe us a destiny. In the future, something will survive; it need not be us.
That uncertainty means that you’re safe. If you’re claiming that AI is impossible, or that it will take countless decades, or that it’ll be safe… you’re not being uncertain, you’re being extremely specific about the future. “No AI risk” is certain; “Possible AI risk” is where we stand.
That Terminator robots will be involved. Please? The threat from AI comes from its potential intelligence, not from its ability to clank around slowly with an Austrian accent.
That we’re assuming the AI is too dumb to know what we’re asking it. No. A powerful AI will know what we meant to program it to do. But why should it care? And if we could figure out how to program “care about what we meant to ask”, well, then we’d have safe AI.
That there’s one simple trick that can solve the whole problem. Many people have proposed that one trick. Some of them could even help (see Holden’s tool AI idea). None of them reduce the risk enough to relax – and many of the tricks contradict each other (you can’t design an AI that’s both a tool and socialising with humans!).
That we want to stop AI research. We don’t. Current AI research is very far from the risky areas and abilities. And it’s risk aware AI researchers that are most likely to figure out how to make safe AI.
That AIs will be more intelligent than us, hence more moral. It’s pretty clear than in humans, high intelligence is no guarantee of morality. Are you really willing to bet the whole future of humanity on the idea that AIs might be different? That in the billions of possible minds out there, there is none that is both dangerous and very intelligent?
That science fiction or spiritual ideas are useful ways of understanding AI risk. Science fiction and spirituality are full of human concepts, created by humans, for humans, to communicate human ideas. They need not apply to AI at all, as these could be minds far removed from human concepts, possibly without a body, possibly with no emotions or consciousness, possibly with many new emotions and a different type of consciousness, etc… Anthropomorphising the AIs could lead us completely astray.
That AIs have to be evil to be dangerous. The majority of the risk comes from indifferent or partially nice AIs. Those that have some goal to follow, with humanity and its desires just getting in the way – using resources, trying to oppose it, or just not being perfectly efficient for its goal.
That we believe AI is coming soon. It might; it might not. Even if AI is known to be in the distant future (which isn’t known, currently), some of the groundwork is worth laying now.