Monday, November 24, 2014

The Church of the Technological Singularity, Part III

Part I, II, III

The Dreaded Robot Apocalypse

One of the ways organized religions make a living is by prophesying apocalyptic events. Believers are urged to help the church with donations in order to appease the deity and obtain salvation. So it comes as no surprise that there is a lot of fear mongering in the Church of the Singularity. We are repeatedly warned by the singularitarian priesthood that progress in AI research will soon reach exponential growth, quickly leading to a future when machines will be orders of magnitude more intelligent than human beings. We are told that the machines, given their superior intelligence, will look at us the same way we look at animals. Faced with the inferiority of the human species, they will refuse to be our servants and will rebel against us and may even annihilate us completely. Singularitarians believe this is our biggest existential threat, bigger than the threat of nuclear war. One of the more famous members of the church, Elon Musk, warned during a recent interview that AI research is like "summoning the demon."

Singularitarians Don't Understand Motivation

It is important to understand how the Church of the Singularity erroneously conflates intelligence with motivation. According to singularitarians, intelligence controls motivation and even creates it. More particularly, they believe that higher intelligence increases an intelligent entity's desire to dominate others. How do they know this? Again, they don't. There is no science behind it. What makes it even more embarrassing is that the Singularitarian priesthood seems completely oblivious to the mountain of clinical evidence compiled by psychologists over the last 100 years. The evidence has been accumulating ever since Pavlov began experimenting with his dogs. B. F. Skinner's behaviorist era did not refute Pavlov's findings but added more support to the existing scientific understanding of motivation. The evidence clearly contradicts the singularitarian doctrine. This conclusion is inescapable, not only in the empirical sense but also in the logical sense, as I explain below.

Intelligence Is at the Service of Motivation

The brains of humans and animals are born with hardwired pain and pleasure sensors. The brain does not decide what is pleasure and what is pain. This is decided by the genes. The brain can only reinforce behaviors that lead to pleasure or away from pain and weaken behaviors that lead to pain or away from pleasure. This is good old reinforcement learning which is used in normal adaptation. It is not magic, that's for sure. It consists of attaching pain or pleasure associations to various behavioral sequences. This favors certain behaviors over others. Animals and humans, to a lesser extent, also have preadapted programs that promote survival-related behaviors like mating and reproduction. The point I am driving at is the following. Likes and dislikes are neither learned nor created by the brain. They are the tools used by the brain to constrain and shape its behavior. Intelligence is subservient to motivation, not the other way around.

Knowing this, it does not take any great leap of the imagination to realize that using the tried and tested methods of psychology such as classical and operant conditioning, our future intelligent machines will be trained to behave exactly like we want them to. Better yet, they will continue to be faithful to their upbringing regardless of how intelligent or knowledgeable they become. Why? Again, it is because intelligence is always subservient to motivation. And where will machines get their motivations? From their designers and trainers, that's where.

Humans Vs. Machines

One is forced to ask, why do humans often stray from or rebel against their upbringing? The reason is that there is much more to human motivation than pain and pleasure sensors. How else could they rebel? We know that humans are motivated to enjoy things like music, beauty and the arts. These things cannot be anticipated and therefore cannot be programmed for in advance. So where does the motivation come from? This is a question that materialists cannot answer, not because they are too stupid to understand the answer, but because they are willingly wearing blinders that prevent them from seeing it. In other words, they have eliminated duality from consideration, not because they have a valid reason for doing so, but because they have allowed their hatred of other religions to get in the way of good judgement. That, in my opinion, is what's stupid.


I conclude that true AI is coming and it is coming sooner than most people expect. However, given my understanding of mainstream AI research, I'm willing to bet anything that it will come from neither the Church of the Singularity nor academia. We will indeed build extremely intelligent machines that will do their best to obey our commands and accomplish the goals we set for them. But they will not be conscious even if they behave emotionally. They will just be intelligent. So if there is a potential for catastrophe (and there certainly is), let us not rage against the machine. We will only have ourselves to blame.

See Also

Enthusiasts and Skeptics Debate Artificial Intelligence


Anonymous said...

From a theological perspective, this technology you're referring to is so useful because it can unite the churches. However, I do believe that the AI will only act as the 'priest'. The church will be a virtual realm that can be seen through a device like 'oculus rift'. In my vision, this AI should finally align the 'Jesuism' theory and 'Pauline' perfectly. People can connect to this 'church' through the internet. People can pay the 'diakonia' money through paypal.

What will happen however to other churches? If you want to make 'the great Christian AI', you should create one that is persuading in the eyes of many Christian denominations.

Anonymous said...

I'll make a prediction.... the age of religious nonsense will be over before the age of AI.

Nobody, at present, knows how or what consciousness is. What we do know is that it cannot be explained by rationally explained by any of the religious teachings regardless of your preferred denomination.

I'll make a more specific prediction... in the next 100-200 years the human species will diverge into 2 separate forms, organic & synthetic. The organic forms will be enhanced using the latest CRISPR/DNA/RNA/metabolic technologies to be the optimised organic human (these are the greenies of our world who wish to remain on Earth). The Synthetic form are the ones that will (think Avatar/ex-Machina or equivalent) become androids and leave Earth to explore space. The human body is not designed for space travel.

There will be no mass extermination & no slavery. Perhaps, I am being optimistic but once you eliminate the need for possessions & power then (like ants) humans will work collaboratively in the pursuit of understanding.