Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Where Will Our Intelligence Take Us, or Take Us Over?
Aeon has another essay I would like to encourage everyone to read. Caleb Scharf, director of Astrobiology at Columbia University, has written a quite interesting review of what might be the cosmological history, and prospects of intelligence, both biological and artificial.
In it he explains that not only are the projections of artificial intelligence still quite problematic, but that the ultimate energy efficiency one can expect at the moment, going into the future, are still not the equal of the biological solution that evolution has already come up with. The upshot here, as far as the cosmos is concerned, is that even if some form of reasoning engine did subsume biological life, and then used its greater environmental adaptability to expand into its home galaxy, it might well have been forced, because of that ultimate energy inefficiency, to go back to a possibly more refined biological solution. The result of which might have then put environmental restrictions back into consideration; something for which further stellar expansion might have then become less desirable, even to the point of abandoning all former great feats of AI inspired creative engineering.
It is an interesting conjecture whether you agree or not with his more cautionary projections for the advances of AI. From my perspective it is our ongoing lack of understanding the full richness of what is biological sentience that makes our current attempts to duplicate it artificially not only so dangerous in the near term, as reasoning engines able to simulate it to various degrees come online, but also because we still really have very little idea of what we are capable of if we could grow in a fully nurturing environment; especially so if we could also take advantage of carefully considered augmentations to our own capacity to recall and consider in general; as through some forms of direct brain to machine interfaces.
I would also like to think that our capacity for creative engineering, once we could start becoming all we could be, and freed from the constraints of any one planetary ecosystem, might well surpass even the imaginations of people like Ian M. Banks, and the wonderful things his "Culture" society became capable of. With such creative engineering we may well be able to take what our biology needs anywhere we want to, even if it takes uncountable generations, and milenium, to do it.