AI and cyborg hype

There is relatively much hype in the tech industry. It’s therefore important to take the possibility of hype or scaremongering into consideration when trying in a calm and sober manner to assess the beneficial and dangerous aspects of 4IR tech (fourth industrial revolution tech).

Firstly, we have to differentiate between low-level cyborgs and “super-cyborgs”. We’ll probably not be able to develop the latter until 2070, or maybe 2250, because genuinely transhuman cyborgs will have fundamentally changed the neurology of the human brain, eventually making it impossible to experience boredom for example. It’s extremely difficult to invent the neuro-tech required to build a fully developed cyborg.

Secondly, it may also take a century or two before scientists manage to create some kind of true Artificial General Intelligence (AGI): the AI typically seen in science fiction movies. Genuinely replicating the human mind/brain may even never be possible, no matter how much we try to copy it.

On the other hand, technology is full of surprises. When millions of scientists are working on developing 4IR tech it’s not unthinkable that we soon get an unexpected breakthrough that will lead to AGI and super-cyborgs within ten or twenty years.

Scientists are well aware that Rutherford once said, in 1933, that nuclear power is “moonshine”, but the very same day Szilard basically discovered how to make nuclear chain reactions.

SF soldiers have a saying: if you are in doubt, you are not in doubt. For example, if you are not sure whether there is a poisonous snake in front of you, then it’s no doubt that you should avoid it, if being in an environment where lethal snakes exist.

(Academics can for ever debate the validity of the “no doubt”-argument mentioned above. Maybe this rule of thumb is an oversimplification when applied to a complex subject like 4IR tech.)

One of the main points however is that millions of cultural conservatives and other supporters of original humanity will simply doubt that 4IR tech is good for human societies and they will therefore fight the development of AGI and cyborgs no matter which ethical conclusions are reached by academics in this case. The risk of anti-surveillance terrorism and even war is very high, the next 5-20 years, even if AI supporters have ethics on their side. This can lead to a violent situation where constitutional democracies are destroyed before anyone manages to design a true AGI.

However, I’m not that worried about AGI and super-cyborgs. The real and present danger is multi-domain narrow AI: drones that have learned to master the full spectrum of warfare, at machine speed, similar to how we can already teach an AI to master different computer games:

DeepMind’s New AI Masters Games Without Even Being Taught the Rules

When drones and IoT sensors are based on multi-domain narrow AI they can be controlled by tyrants, or spin out of control when frightened politicians in the West overreact and deploy them to stop terrorists and other “enemies of the corporate state”.

Power corrupts, so we can most likely say goodbye to democracy the moment someone invents the first battery (or another kind of energy tech) which can fuel tiny insect drones, because that will make it possible to deploy trillions of very small insect drones that can secretly monitor cities, forests and mountains. That level of surveillance, combined with (secret/stealth) killer bots, will turn the world into an open prison.

Even if lawmakers ban drone and IoT surveillance it will be impossible (for normal people) to verify that they are not under high-tech surveillance. This in itself will have a chilling effect on democracies, significantly reducing freedom of expression. It will frighten people into conformity.

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