Dec 13, 2018

AI god scenario

Interesting self-psychology (a) of an AI Impacts contributor:

I was convinced. An intelligence explosion would result in the sudden arrival of a superintelligent machine. Its abilities would far exceed those of humans in ways we can’t imagine or counter. It would likely arrive within a few decades, and would wield complete power over humanity...

Intellectually, I knew that it was not certain that this “god scenario” would come to pass. If asked, I would even have assigned it a relatively low probability, certainly much less than 50%. Nevertheless, it dominated my thinking. Other possibilities felt much less real: that humans might achieve direct control over their superintelligent invention, that reaching human-level intelligence might take hundreds of years, that there might be a slow progression from human-level intelligence to superintelligence, and many others. I paid lip service to these alternatives, but I didn’t want them to be valid, and I didn’t think about them much. My mind would always drift back to the god scenario.


Why did I find the god scenario so captivating? I like science fiction, and the idea of an intelligence explosion certainly has science-fictional appeal. I was able to relate to the scenario easily, and perhaps better think through the implications. But the transition from science fiction to reality in my mind wasn’t immediate. I remember repeatedly thinking “nahhh, surely this can’t be right!” My mind was trying to put the scenario in its science-fictional place. But each time the thought occurred, I remember being surprised at the scenario’s plausibility, and at my inability to rule out any of its key components.

Also this:

This emotional effect was an important part of the god scenario’s impact on me. At first, it terrified me. I felt like my whole view of the world had been upset, and almost everything people do day to day seemed to no longer matter. I would see a funny video of a dog barking at its reflection, and instead of enjoying it, I’d notice the grim analogy of the intellectual powerlessness humanity might one day experience.