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Paths, Dangers, Strategies

By Nick Bostrom
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Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom

Superintelligence (2014) investigates how creating a machine more intelligent than a human would change humanity. These blinks are full of facts, figures and studies from a variety of disciplines, resulting in a complex picture of the superintelligent future and how we might arrive there.

Key idea 1 of 9

History shows that superintelligence – a technology more intelligent than any human being – is fast approaching.

What fundamentally sets us apart from the beasts of the field? Well, the main difference between human beings and animals is our capacity for abstract thinking paired with the ability to communicate and accumulate information. In essence, our superior intelligence propelled us to the top.

So what would the emergence of a new species, intellectually superior to humans, mean for the world?

First we’ll need to review a bit of history. For instance, did you know that the pace of major revolutions in technology has been increasing over time? For example, improving at the snail’s pace of a few hundred thousand years ago, human technology would have needed one million years to become economically productive enough to sustain the lives of an additional million people. This number dropped to two centuries during the Agricultural Revolution in 5,000 BC. And in our post-Industrial Revolution era it shrunk to a mere 90 minutes.

A technological advancement like the advent of superintelligent machines would mean radical change for the world as we know it. But where does technology stand at present?

We have already been able to create machines that have the capacity to learn and reason using information that’s been plugged in by humans. Consider, for example, the automated spam filters that keep our inboxes free from annoying mass emails and save important messages.

However, this is far from the kind of “general intelligence” humans possess, and which has been the goal of AI research for decades. And when it comes to building a superintelligent machine that can learn and act without the guiding hand of a human, it may still be decades away. But advancements in the field are happening quickly, so it could be upon us faster than we think. Such a machine would have a lot of power over our lives. Its intelligence could even be dangerous, since it would be too smart for us to disable in the event of an emergency.

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