Another sample from my upcoming thesis on AI Safety and Buddhism:
Beyond all those, there is the prospect of an AI arms race, which is already in the making. Sensing the decisive advantage a nation with AI can have over its foes and competitors, defense bodies and governments around the world are already investing in developing and weaponizing AI systems. This, of course, is a surefire way of circumventing safety procedures and pushing for faster, less considered development.
In his book An Army of None, author Paul Scharre describes the mad race among armies to develop and deploy autonomous weapons in the air, sea, and on the ground:
More than thirty nations already have defensive supervised autonomous weapons for situations in which the speed of engagements is too fast for humans to respond. These systems, used to defend ships and bases against saturation attacks from rockets and missiles, are supervised by humans who can intervene if necessary—but other weapons, like the Israeli Harpy drone, have already crossed the line to full autonomy. Unlike the Predator drone, which is controlled by a human, the Harpy can search a wide area for enemy radars and, once it finds one, destroy it without asking permission. It’s been sold to a handful of countries and China has reverse engineered its own variant. Wider proliferation is a definite possibility, and the Harpy may only be the beginning. South Korea has deployed a robotic sentry gun to the demilitarized zone bordering North Korea. Israel has used armed ground robots to patrol its Gaza border. Russia is building a suite of armed ground robots for war on the plains of Europe. Sixteen nations already have armed drones, and another dozen or more are openly pursuing development.
Paul Scharre, Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War, W. W. Norton & Company (Kindle Edition), pp. 4-5.
Another snippet from my thesis:
To full grasp what is at stake, it is perhaps worth contemplating the vast space of possible outcomes when it comes to AI: With serious scholars and thinkers arguing with equal authority that AI technologies could lead to the enslavement or annihilation of mankind, or that it could make us all into immortal Gods, or many states in between. Writes Max Tegmark:
“Whereas it may be little more than a minor nuisance if your laptop crashes or gets hacked, it becomes all the more important that an AI system does what you want it to do if it controls your car, your airplane, your pacemaker, your automated trading system or your power grid. Another short-term challenge is preventing a devastating arms race in lethal autonomous weapons.
In the long term, an important question is what will happen if the quest for strong AI succeeds and an AI system becomes better than humans at all cognitive tasks. As pointed out by I.J. Good in 1965, designing smarter AI systems is itself a cognitive task. Such a system could potentially undergo recursive self-improvement, triggering an intelligence explosion leaving human intellect far behind. By inventing revolutionary new technologies, such a superintelligence might help us eradicate war, disease, and poverty, and so the creation of strong AI might be the biggest event in human history. Some experts have expressed concern, though, that it might also be the last, unless we learn to align the goals of the AI with ours before it becomes superintelligent.”
It is perhaps better to think of AI as tool of unequal power but neutral valence. Indeed, economists have argued that AI is “the most important general-purpose technology of our era”, which means that it is likely to have the most profound impact on the economy, on economic activity, on related innovations in the same way electricity or computing itself had. It is also likely to cause large scale problems in the same way that other general-purpose innovations have. The technology itself enables and empowers but is neither good nor evil in itself.