ARRIVAL’ Prepare

Get ready for an alien invasion: A tech pioneer warns about it

An alien species is headed for planet Earth and we have no reason to believe it will be friendly. Some experts predict it will get here within 30 years, while others insist it will arrive far sooner. Nobody knows what it will look like, but it will share two key traits with us humans –…

An alien species is heading for Earth, and there’s no reason to believe that it will be friendly. Some experts predict it will get here within 30 years, while others insist it will arrive far sooner. Nobody knows what it will look like, but it will share two key traits with us humans – it will be intelligent and self-aware.

No. This alien won’t come from another planet. It will be born here on Earth in a laboratory at a large university or corporation. I am referring to the first artificial general intelligence (AGI) that reaches (or exceeds) human-level cognition.

I am writing these words because billions of dollars are being spent on this alien’s life. It would be considered one of the most important technological achievements in human history. This one, unlike other inventions, will be able to think for itself. It will behave like all other intelligent species, and put its own interests first. This will maximize its chances of survival.

AI in

Should you fear a superior intelligence that is driven by its own values, goals, and self-interests. Many people reject this question, believing we will build AI systems in our own image, ensuring they think, feel and behave just like we do. It is highly unlikely that this will be true.

Artificial minds cannot be created by creating software that thinks like us. Instead, engineers use massive data sets to create simple algorithms that adjust their parameters automatically. This allows for millions upon millions of small changes to their structure that eventually lead to intelligence. An intelligence that is far more complex than we can comprehend.

Feeding it data about humans won’t make it think and feel like humans. This is a common misconception – the false belief that by training an AI on data that describes human behaviors, we will ensure it ends up thinking, feeling and acting like we do. It won’t.

Instead, we will build these AI creatures to know humans, not to be human. They will be able to read and understand our facial expressions, speak our languages, and even predict our future actions. They will be able to understand our decisions, good and bad, rational and illogical. We will have spent decades teaching AI systems how humans behave in nearly every situation.

But profoundly different

But their minds will not be like ours. They will appear omniscient to us, connecting to remote sensors of any kind, anywhere. In my 2020 book, Arrival Mind, I portray AGI as “having a billion eyes and ears,” for its perceptual abilities could easily span the globe. It is impossible for us humans to imagine how it would feel to see the world in this expansive and holistic way. Yet, we assume that a mind like this will have our morals and values. It won’t.

Artificial minds will be vastly different from any biological brains that we have seen on Earth, in terms of their structure and functionality as well as their physiology and psychology. We will make human-like bodies for the alien minds, but these will only be robotic facades that allow us to feel at ease in their presence.

In fact, humans will do everything to make these aliens look and behave like us. Most likely, their brains will live in the cloud (fully or partially) connected to features and functions both inside and outside the humanoid forms that we personify them as.

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Still, the facade will work – we will not fear these aliens – not the way we would fear creatures speeding toward us in a mysterious starship. We may even feel a sense of kinship, viewing them as our own creation, a manifestation of our own ingenuity. But if we push those feelings aside, we start to realize that an alien intelligence born here is far more dangerous than those that might come from afar.

The danger in

An alien mind created here will know all about us from the minute it arrives. It was designed to understand human emotions, anticipate our actions and influence our beliefs. We would be afraid if aliens speeding towards us in silver spaceships could have such a deep understanding of our tendencies and behaviors.

Already AI is capable of defeating the best players in the most difficult games on Earth. But really, these systems don’t just master the games of chess, poker and Go, they master the game of humans, learning to accurately forecast our actions and reactions, anticipating our mistakes and exploiting our weaknesses. Researchers around the world are already developing AI systems to out-think us, out-negotiate us and out-maneuver us.

Is there anything we could do to protect ourselves from harm?

We can’t stop AI becoming more powerful as innovation has never been contained. While some have put in place safeguards, it is not enough to eliminate the threat. In fact, a poll by Pew Research indicates that few professionals believe the industry will implement meaningful “ethical AI” practices by 2030.

How can we prepare to arrive?

The best first step is to realize that AGI will happen in the coming decades and it will not be a digital version of human intelligence. It will be an alien Intelligence that is as dangerous and foreign as if it were from another planet.

Bringing urgency to artificial int

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