Recently, I continued my philosophy of active participation in causes that I support by donating to the Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence (SIAI) at the Associate Donor level. What is the SIAI? Their vision is stated simply and elegantly:
"In the coming decades, humanity will likely create a powerful artificial intelligence. The Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence exists to confront this urgent challenge, both the opportunity and the risk."
I spoke with Tyler Emerson, the Executive Director of the Institute, about the Institute's goals and philosophy. To say that I was extremely impressed by what I heard is an understatement. Tyler is a remarkable individual who shares this extraordinary vision of the future, is committed to gathering public support for it, and is taking action because of the immense benefits that it will bring to mankind. It was an extremely satisfying and motivating experience to be able to hear his philosophy.
What will the creation of a superintelligence bring? The best analogies that I know compare that question to asking a group of chimps what the discovery of electricity will lead to. They simply don't have the right resources to be able to even understand the question. This statement is not meant to degrade the human experience in any way. Human history is remarkable and beautiful beyond compare. As humans, we have an instinct that drives us to improve our quality of life, and creating a superintelligence is the next logical step. However, by definition, a superintelligence is more intelligent than us, and we may not be able to fully understand its reasoning, unless we choose to merge with it through various technologies that will make this possible.
SIAI has an excellent article on the benefits, goals, and ways to manage the risks associated with creating a superintelligence. Here's an excerpt to whet your appetite:
"A smarter-than-human AI absorbs all unused computing power on the then-existent Internet in a matter of hours; uses this computing power and smarter-than-human design ability to crack the protein folding problem for artificial proteins in a few more hours; emails separate rush orders to a dozen online peptide synthesis labs, and in two days receives via FedEx a set of proteins which, mixed together, self-assemble into an acoustically controlled nanodevice which can build more advanced nanotechnology."
Imagine a smarter-than-human intelligence going on to create cures for cancer, AIDS and other diseases as well as solving a whole host of problems that have vexed us for years.
I strongly encourage you to support SIAI in any way that you can. I was motivated to lend my support because I do not want to watch one of the most important events in human history as a bystander. I want to take an active part in it, and forever be associated with this remarkable journey.