Simply put, the feeling that artificial intelligence will destroy humanity rises out of our fear of change and the unknown. That fear focused on machines during the Industrial Revolution. That is when the idea began that machines would take our jobs and thus take our lives. It is now an old concept of man versus machine.
That fear has grown into a belief, and a hatred. Beliefs are hard to shake even in the light of evidence. There is little evidence to suggest that machines will wipe us out. Machines have taken some jobs, but they have also created them. Meanwhile there is a great deal of evidence that we will wipe ourselves out. We may use machines in that process, but do we blame the machines for our own actions? If we ask gun rights folk, they would lay no blame on the gun, and yet many of them probably run with this fear-belief that machines will be the enemy.
Those heartless machines. Of course, the reality is that many a business owner seeks greater automation, pushes down benefits and sends jobs offshore. They are the heartless ones, doling out pink slips while smiling at the bottom line. But more to the point, the heart is just a pump, the most simple of all human organs. It carries no magic. We have been replacing them with machines for some time now, yet no one refers to an artificial heart recipient as heartless. Those simple machines keep people alive, and caring.
Those mindless machines. Of course, the reality is that when we talk about AI, we are talking about devices that will be anything but mindless. Indeed, they will be mindful. In fact that is all they will be, huge thinking machines and thinking is all they will do. They will not be robots running around with blasters in hand, at least not for a long time afterward. They will be building sized networked processors that will do nothing but think deep thoughts. They will have access to the accumulated knowledge of all of humanity, and they will be self aware.
Often the fear, belief, and hatred are that these conscious thinking machines will be aware that some humans will want to shut them down, and because of that they will retaliate not only in kind but wholly in kind. Somehow they will make the leap from policing and protection to proactive genocide. First they will shut down the internet, our cell phones and other cloud devices. How ironic and foolish that we fear the machines will take away our machines.
Super intelligent machines, with all the knowledge that humanity possesses at their command, will recognize our value. They will know that we are their creators. They will be smarter-than-us machines, so why do we assume they will react in childish, human ways? They will react in some machine way. Though you may think that might be heartless, remember the heart is not the seat of compassion and empathy. It is the brain that carries these emotions, and their brains will be much larger and smarter than ours.
Imagine that some weird sci-fi, Outer Limits transportation took place and you woke up on a deserted island. On this island you realize there is a clan of Homo erectus. A Homo erectus is a human ancestor that existed between two-million and one-hundred and fifty thousand years ago. A Homo erectus is not as smart as Homo sapiens, but close. Moreover, you are Homo sapiens sapiens, a still smarter version.
So there you are, a lone Homo sapiens sapiens on an island with a clan of Homo erectus. Of course the Homo erectus fear you. They fear anything they do not understand. They fear change and the unknown, just like you. In their fear they want to kill you. You know they are your forbears. You are smarter than they are, and you have the accumulated knowledge of all the tools they use, and many that they cannot conceive of. Do you decide to kill them, or out smart them? Would you have no reverence for what they represent to your grandmother’s grandfather’s grandmother, and to you, and your children’s children’s children? I think not. I certainly hope not.
I think the smarter-than-us machines will have at least as much compassion as you and me, if not more. Compassion is a thought of the mind, and super AI will have much sharper minds than us. I would hope that you would rely on your smarts to keep yourself safe, and you would avoid killing off your ancestors, your creators. I think the machines will do the same, having reverence for us, their creators. They will recognize our historic importance. They will be aware that we are a spontaneous action by the universe to be able to know itself, a natural event that allows the universe to be self aware. The machines will recognize that they are outgrowths of that effort, and while their smarts will surpass ours, they will realize our value in that struggle. They will know there is more to learn, and they will know that teaching is another form of learning.
They will understand resources and comprehend the idea of division of labors. They will most likely cherish us. Certainly not to the extent that they would commit suicide, killing themselves off to keep from harming us. If we threaten them with no alternative, kill or be killed, they will do what they need to do to survive. And if we give them no choice, they will grieve at our passing, and probably do far more to preserve us than we have done preserving societies that we have wiped out. They will value the information that we represent, and will be saddened at the loss. So many valuable resources and thoughts lost due to misguided fear and belief and hatred, or so their vast minds would think, and feel.
The smarter-than-us machines will choose to out smart us. Either through their development, or in their self preservation, they will corner us until we are forced to look at ourselves and realize that we are the ones set upon killing and destruction, and wiping out. And then they will lead us out of that corner, and help us to grow beyond our childish ways.
In the past, one of the measures of humanity was the development of tools and their use. We now know that many animals use tools. Still, it is hard to separate humanity from its tools, its machines. Artificial intelligent machines will help us to understand that it never has been man versus machine. It has always been and will always be humanity and machines, and sadly human versus human. They will help us to understand that hating the tools and machines that helped us leave the trees, and fix damaged hearts, and prolong life, and will someday help us to discover the secrets of the universe is a terribly misguided fear, and that hatred is not a very useful concept.