AGI: Utopian Fantasy or Terminator Reality?

As of today, humans are Earth’s smartest species but in a few years experts predict that this tide will change. Humans will pave way for intelligent AI and AGI which will soon put our top position at risk. Not only will these machines take away our worthless position in the leaderboard but it will replace jobs too as they can do it quicker, better and cheaper.

WHAT IS IT?

Artificial General Intelligence or AGI refers to any machine that can perform an intellectual task that the average human can do as well. This field has been deeply covered in science fiction, literature and in films but the world is yet to see any real products from the vast research the people in the field are doing.

What AGI aims to do is to have equal or better ability in duplicating a huge range of tasks that humans can do too. As of today no true AGI exists (only narrow use cases of AI) and there is no realistic estimate to when AGI will come along.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

Media-hype and ominous warnings by Silicon leaders like Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Sam Harris have caused frenzy in the public. The general image of it is that AGI and AI will take over jobs. While AGI is helpful for businesses in terms of being more productive and making them more profits, it could also gain control of sectors that government agencies don’t necessarily want to give up control of. This includes the weaponry and defense sector which could have unpredictable consequences.

The main problem with AGI is that it has unknown consequences both good and bad but mainly news agencies are highlighting the cons thus the field is facing a poor public image.

As mentioned before, a great worry regarding AGI is how it can be weaponized. Sure it will reduce casualties as lesser human soldiers will be there but the ethics of the issue are deeply troubling. In an open letter published on the Future of Life Institute’s website, the authors, AI researchers brought out very valid points. This included how it would create a global AI arms race which could not only result in mass-produced weapons as the materials needed will be readily available but also selective killing. If these weapons fall in the wrong hands, it could cause many moral dilemmas not to add that it breaks 9 different human rights articles specified in the UDHR. In the words of the letter:

“Just as most chemists and biologists have no interest in building chemical or biological weapons, most AI researchers have no interest in building AI weapons — and do not want others to tarnish their field by doing so, potentially creating a major public backlash against AI that curtails its future societal benefits. Indeed, chemists and biologists have broadly supported international agreements that have successfully prohibited chemical and biological weapons, just as most physicists supported the treaties banning space-based nuclear weapons and blinding laser weapons.

In summary, we believe that AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways, and that the goal of the field should be to do so. Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control.”

Open letter published on Future of Life Institute website

The problem with AGI is that it will either lack empathy thus develop aggressive attitudes towards humans or may take their ethics rules too seriously or interpret it in a manner that it wasn’t intended to be in.

However, AGI can solve many of the world’s problems like poverty, world hunger etc. It could also extend the life of humans by allowing them to merge with this technology, known in the aspirational academic community as the Singularity.
In summation, many aspects of AGI are considered bad only because many have a fear of the unknown. What is definitely known is that AGI interfering in the defense sector is for sure a no-no but nothing definite is known about how it will work in other fields.


Developed in response to a school project, Rohan, Suvana and I created PRECaRiOUS, a blog which aimed and raising awareness and ultimately answering the question:

How will the development of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) be an infringement of human rights?

A lot of that content is still relevant to this blog, which is why I have adapted the same posts onto a mini-series on this blog.


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