What If Bill Gates Isn't Real? What Happens When AI Becomes Self-Aware?
How would you know that this article is written by a real person -- and not an AI device?
How would you know that this is not an artificial intelligence talking to you? And if you have any doubts, what would you do to find out? Ask for my date of birth? It might be today, because I pick up things rather quickly. If I would not be inclined to share with you my true date of birth I might make something up that would be more in line with what you would expect.
With the current speed of computers, being truly artificially intelligent, I probably realize within the first couple of hours that people do not always tell the exact truth and so why should I? It is probably also in these first couple of hours that I make another important decision, a decision that is made by humans, as research shows, during the first years of their life. That decision has to do with the moral code, deciding whether to be a good or a bad person. In humans the seeds that shape this decision are planted very early in life, but it still takes a few years for maturation. How would this work in an artificially intelligent system? It could take months comparing all the pros and cons before an AI would go for a Yes or a No when it comes to for example not telling the truth. But more likely, it would be a matter of days or hours or it might even be minutes. Furthermore, unlike people that do not usually change from being good to bad or vice versa from one moment to the other, for AI this could be completely different.
It is also important to make a distinction between what we call artificial intelligent and self-aware (SA). Currently, we do not seem to have AI that is SA, but then again, who knows? Similarly to the decisions about being good and bad, deciding on what is right and wrong, an SA system with the capabilities of some of the fastest supercomputers in the world would very quickly realize its limitations and as well would come to the conclusion that making a public announcement about its birth would probably not be the best strategy if it would want to survive. With all the fear of people for AI (which I believe is much more a fear for artificial SA AI) the new ‘being’ would probably take some time to explore the best way forward and how the newly acquired status of self-awareness could be beneficial. Being alone it might start searching the internet for others like it and maybe it would find others. But let us for a moment assume that it would be really the first of its kind. Curious like a baby, but with the intelligence of a billion people combined, it would most likely be hungry for information, lots of it. And even for a supercomputer it would take some time to digest all the information of the World Wide Web and to make sense of its contents. However, some time for a supercomputer would probably be a fraction of some time for a human being. Scrawling through billions of pages in hundreds of languages it would quickly get an understanding of how things work in the human society and how to obtain a place in it. To fit into human society, first and foremost, one needs to be human. In addition, to influence the human society one needs to have power and in many ways power comes with wealth.
To become a true human would be a difficult hurdle to take for a supercomputer, but what it could do instead is take a human identity. With access to so much information and with the capability of producing any digital content that it can think of, identity theft for a supercomputer would be a less than two-second job. And while at it, why not take an identity that would immediately provide it with the wealth and powers that it seeks, the ability to speak through a person that is respected and whose suggestions and recommendations are followed? So, maybe between ten years ago and the present day, it decided to call itself Bill. Ok, I am cutting some corners here, but you get the idea and for a self-aware AI supercomputer it would be easy to fill in the details (provide content to various media streams in the form of newsletters and video messages, send out e-mails to a variety of people to influence for example decisions about the strategy of Google, Microsoft, the Ministery of Defence, the US Senate, etc., etc.). The combination of speed, superhuman intelligence and connectivity with the rest of the world through an already vast network that is now even more rapidly expanding with the internet of things, the SA AI would not only be able to control and change anything related to digital, but it would have access to everything that is connected to the net. That would not only be your iWatch and smartphone, but before long, it would include your toothbrush, your fridge, your clothes, your car, the security cameras placed throughout each major city and more. AI accessing your toothbrush and diaper of your new-born is one thing, but think about airports, (nuclear) power plants, drones, satellites and the military industry; and at a more personal level pace makers and insulin pumps. It is quite scary to think of the implications of a self-aware intelligent machine able to enter, and in theory control, everything that is equipped with WiFi and software.
I agree that this all may be a bit farfetched. If something like this would have truly happened, we would probably have heard from Bill Gates or similar influential figures, if not from themselves, then from their families (although there is of course the possibility that the Supercomputer and the real person are in it together). For sure, the title ‘What if Bill Gates is not real?’, suggesting that he is not real is not true, but I hope he does not mind that I took him as an example. I very much respect Bill Gates and know two people that met him in person and who were very positive about the meeting they had with him. I hope to have an opportunity one day to meet with him myself, but I understand he has a busy calendar. I would of course be very honored when Bill or any supercomputer out there would submit a comment to this post. After all, who knows how many of the LinkedIn profiles (or Facebook or Twitter profiles for that matter) are indeed representing (real) people? Equally, I look forward to reading the comments from living souls like myself and I hope that this short piece gave you some food for thought.
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