[ExI] Unfrendly AI is a mistaken idea.

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sun Jun 3 06:37:50 UTC 2007

On 03/06/07, A B <austriaaugust at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Hi Stathis,
> Stathis wrote:
> > "Single-celled organisms are even more successful
> > than humans are: they're
> > everywhere, and for the most part we don't even
> > notice them."
> But if we *really* wanted to, we could destroy all of
> them - along with ourselves. They can't say the same.

No we couldn't: we'd have to almost destroy the whole Earth. A massive
meteorite might kill all the large flora and fauna, but still leave some
micro-organisms alive. And there's always the possibility that some disease
might wipe out most of humanity. We're actually less capable at combating
bacterial infection today than we were several decades ago, even though our
biotechnology is far more advanced. The bugs are matching us and sometimes
beating us.

> > particularly human level intelligence, is just a
> > fluke, like the giraffe's
> > neck. If it were specially adaptive, why didn't it
> > evolve independently many
> > times, like various sense organs have?
> The evolution of human intelligence was like a series
> of flukes, each one building off the last (the first
> fluke was likely the most improbable). There has been
> a long line of proto-human species before us, we're
> just the latest model. Intelligence is specially
> adaptive, its just that it took evolution a hella long
> time to blindly stumble on to it. Keep in mind that
> human intelligence was a result of a *huge* number of
> random, collectively-useful, mutations. For a *single*
> random attribute to be retained by a species, it also
> has to provide an *immediate* survival or reproductive
> advantage to an individual, not just an immediate
> "promise" of something good to come in the far distant
> future of the species. Generally, if it doesn't
> provide an immediate survival or reproductive (net)
> advantage, it isn't retained for very long because
> there is usually a down-side, and its back to
> square-one. So you can see why the rise of
> intelligence was so ridiculously improbable.

I disagree with that: it's far easier to see how intelligence could be both
incrementally increased (by increasing brain size, for example) and
incrementally useful than something like the eye, for example. Once nervous
tissue developed, there should have been a massive intelligence arms race,
if intelligence is that useful.

"Why don't we
> > see evidence of it
> > having taken over the universe?"
> We may be starting to.  :-)
> "We would have to be
> > extraordinarily lucky if
> > intelligence had some special role in evolution and
> > we happen to be the
> > first example of it."
> Sometimes I don't feel like ascribing "lucky" to our
> present condition. But in the sense you mean it, I
> think we are. Like John Clark says, "somebody has to
> be first".
>   "It's not impossible, but the
> > evidence would suggest
> > otherwise."
> What evidence do you mean?

The fact that we seem to be the only intelligent species to have developed
on the planet or in the universe. One explanation for this is that evolution
just doesn't think that human level or better intelligence is as cool as we
think it is.

To quote Martin Gardner: "It takes an ancient Universe
> to create life and mind".
> It would require billions of years for any Universe to
> become hospitable to anyone. It has to cool-off, form
> stars and galaxies, then a bunch of really big stars
> have to supernova in order to spread their heavy
> elements into interstellar clouds that eventually
> converge into bio-friendly planets and suns. Then the
> bio-friendly planet has too cool-off itself. Then
> biological evolution has a chance to start, but took a
> few billion more years to accidentally produce human
> beings. Our Universe is about ~15 billion years old...
> sounds about right to me. :-)
> Yep, it's an absurdity. And it took me a long time to
> accept it too. But we are the first, and possibly the
> last. That makes our survival and success all the more
> critical. That's what I'm betting, at least.

It seems more likely to me that life is very widespread, but intelligence is
an aberration.

Stathis Papaioannou
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