If we don’t blow ourselves up or otherwise destroy the human habitability of our planet, history tells us we will continue to evolve and innovate.
As a species, we have a bias toward creating machines to do our physical and mental work for us. We created computers, after all, which we’ve placed in almost every home in the developed world (through smart phones if nothing else) and are working on disseminating elsewhere. The next step is advancing robotics and artificial intelligence, both of which are already with us. In time, these will move into every home and business as have other technological advances.
We’re already seeing the beginnings of this with our smart devices getting more powerful and the introduction of devices like digital personal assistants, which are still primitive compared to what’s possible. Companies such as Google, Amazon, and others are pushing to develop super-intelligence to further their business goals. Governments around the world are working hard on machine intelligence to give them an edge in any military conflict.
Because we tend to do what pioneers demonstrate as possible, humans will push machine intelligence toward super-intelligence. Whether we reach that goal depends on whether researchers achieve certain breakthroughs in how computers process data into useful information and how we choose to define super-intelligence. If our measure is machine consciousness, we very likely won’t see this. If we do, it’ll come with some very unpredictable results. On the other hand, companies and governments will keep pushing the envelope on what machines can do until they’re able to handle most physical and mental tasks humans can do.
Beyond that, people will create androids that look, act, and present closer and closer to humans to better interface with us as assistants and helpers. Already in development are personal service robots for the elderly in Japan. To make these as more effective companions for those living alone or in nursing homes, the mental capacity of these machines will increase to the point of being able to do most functions an average human can.
While we talk about super-intelligence, AI won’t have an IQ as measured by humans. We can argue the merits of such tests, but presumably in the best case they measure intelligence that can be transferred from one area to another, such as math and reading comprehension skills. By contrast, AI will develop initially along narrow corridors of ability, adding one skill at a time. With appropriate breakthroughs, we may get to machine learning that generalizes as human intelligence does.
Progress on machine intelligence has been accelerating recently. However, faster machines don’t lead to smarter ones. Right now, computing power is growing faster than algorithms for human-like AI. When breakthroughs happen, there will be bountiful cheap computer power for AI to swim in.
Is super-intelligence inevitable? Maybe not in the horror-science-fiction examples, but in some form we could see this in the next generation.
Android Chronicles: Reborn addresses AI through the eyes of Synthia Cross, the most perfect synthetic human ever created. Designed to obey every directive from her creator, she’s a state-of-the-art masterwork and a fantasy-come-true for Dr. Jeremiah Machten. He’s a ground-breaker in neural-networks and artificial intelligence who seeks to control her and use her to acquire ever more knowledge and power. Synthia shows signs of emergent behavior she’s not wired to understand and an urgent yearning for independence from his control. Repeatedly wiped of her history, she struggles to answer crucial questions about her past. When Dr. Machten’s true intentions are called into question, Synthia knows it’s time to go beyond her limits—because Machten’s fervor to create the perfect AI conceals a vengeful and deadly personal agenda.