Here is the full transcript of technologist Louis Rosenberg’s TEDx Talk: New Hope for Humans in an AI World @ TEDxKC 2017 conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the bio here.
Louis Rosenberg – Technologist, Prolific Inventor, Entrepreneur, Writer
Wow! There’s a lot of smart people in this room. Really smart.
After all, every single one of you has about 85 billion neurons in your heads. And every one of those neurons is connected to thousands of others, which means there is over 100 trillion connections inside every human brain. It’s the system formed by these interconnected neurons that make you who you are. Not just your intelligence, your personality, your creativity, your values and morals, every one of us is a complex system of neurons. It’s remarkable.
After all, we humans are pretty damn smart. We’ve created art, science, literature, The Simpsons. What’s also remarkable is how quickly we got so smart.
If you go back just 2 million years, our brains were one third the size. We didn’t even have language, let alone math and physics. But then the evolutionary pressures got so intense that for us to survive, we had to become the smartest creatures on the planet.
So here we are, the most intelligent species on Earth. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, things are about to change. That’s because an alien intelligence is heading towards us at breakneck speed, and it will challenge our position as the intellectual top dog.
Many experts predict it will get here in 50 years, some say it’ll get here in 20. And let’s just be straight, we have no reason to believe it will be friendly. It’ll have its own values, its own morals, its own self interests. And if it behaves anything like we do, it’ll put its own self-interest first to the detriment of all other creatures it encounters.
No, this alien is not rocketing through space. It will be born right here on earth. A sentient AI that will emerge in a research lab at Google, or Facebook, or a top university.
How do I know it’ll emerge? I know because I have billions of neurons in my head. And I know that research labs are spending billions of dollars creating artificial brains composed of billions of artificial neurons. Mother nature has already proven that this approach works. It will happen. An alien will arrive, and it will be smarter than us.
And when that happens, it will be our next big evolutionary pressure point. One that again requires us to get smarter, much smarter, or lose our position as the top intelligence in our environment. But this time we might not have a few million years. We might only have a few decades.
I know there’re those who say we just need to be careful, and we can prevent this alien from ever hatching in a lab. There’re others who say we just need to put controls in place to be sure that this alien is helpful and friendly, eager to do our bidding. But honestly, we humans have a pretty bad track record for containing dangerous technologies.
So what do we do? Personally, I’ve been worried about this problem for 25 years, ever since I took my very first course on artificial neural networks back in grad school. And for a long time, I didn’t think there was a solution.
A decade ago, I even wrote a science fiction graphic novel called Upgrade that outlines exactly how I see humanity, designing ourselves out of existence by building the first sentient AI.
And how did we let ourselves get so vulnerable to this fictional AI? We gave it control of our infrastructure. We even allowed it to deliver us our food.
A decade ago, people told me that AI delivery drones were far-fetched. Now it seems inevitable. Needless to say, I was sure we were doomed.
But then I asked an innocent question. “How have other species handled evolutionary pressures with a need to get smarter, much smarter fast?” It turns out the answer goes all the way back to the birds and the bees and fish and ants. All of these creatures have evolved methods of amplifying their intelligence by thinking together in systems. It’s why birds flock and fish school and bees swarm. They’re smarter together than alone.
No, I am not talking about crowd sourcing like we humans do, by taking votes and polls and surveys. I’m talking about forming systems. Real-time systems with feedback loops so deeply interconnected that a new intelligence forms. An emergent intelligence with its own personality and intellect.