AI & Robots

Consciousness and the Existence of the Soul — What does it mean to be Alive???

Closer To Truth — a PBS science and philosophy-based series of discussions about
God, Consciousness, and the Cosmos

The Matrix, AI: Artificial Intelligence, “The Measure of a Man”

‘Bots and other Machines

A fascinating excerpt from Creating Friendly AI:

I strongly recommend reading Greg Egan’s Diaspora, or at least Permutation City, for a concrete picture of what life would be like with a real operating system… at least, for people who choose to retain the essentially human cognitive architecture.  I don’t necessarily think that everything in Diaspora is correct.  In fact, I think most of it is wrong.  But, in terms of concrete imagery, it’s probably the best writing available.  My favorite quote from Diaspora – one that affected my entire train of thought about the Singularity – is this one:

Once a psychoblast became self-aware, it was granted citizenship, and intervention without consent became impossible.  This was not a matter of mere custom or law; the principle was built into the deepest level of the polis.  A citizen who spiraled down into insanity could spend teratau in a state of confusion and pain, with a mind too damaged to authorize help, or even to choose extinction.  That was the price of autonomy: an inalienable right to madness and suffering, indistinguishable from the right to solitude and peace.

Annotated version:

Once a psychoblast [embryo citizen] became self-aware [defined how?], it was granted citizenship, and intervention without consent [defined how?] became impossible.  This was not a matter of mere custom or law; the principle was built into the deepest level of the polis.  A citizen who spiraled down into insanity [they didn’t see it coming?] could spend teratau [1 teratau = ~27,000 years of subjective time] in a state of confusion and pain, with a mind too damaged to authorize help [they didn’t authorize it in advance?], or even to choose extinction.  That was the price of autonomy: an inalienable right to madness and suffering, indistinguishable from the right to solitude and peace.

This is one of the issues that I think of as representing the “fine detail” of Friendliness content.  Although such issues appear, in Diaspora, on the intergalactic scale, it’s equally possible to imagine them being refined down to the level of an approximately human-equivalent Friendly AI, trying to help a few nearby humans be all they can be, or all they choose to be, and trying to preserve nearby humans from involuntary woes.

Punting the issue of “What is ‘good’?” back to individual sentients enormously simplifies a lot of moral issues; whether life is better than death, for example.  Nobody should be able to interfere if a sentient chooses life.  And – in all probability – nobody should be able to interfere if a sentient chooses death.  So what’s left to argue about?  Well, quite a bit, and a fully Friendly AI needs to be able to argue it; the resolution, however, is likely to come down to individual volition.

Thus, Creating Friendly AI uses “volition-based Friendliness” as the assumed model for Friendliness content.  Volition-based Friendliness has both a negative aspect – don’t cause involuntary pain, death, alteration, et cetera; try to do something about those things if you see them happening – and a positive aspect: to try and fulfill the requests of sentient entities.

Friendship content, however, forms only a very small part of Friendship system design.

And then, a touch of poetry to “soothe the savage beast”, amid all this talk of men and machines:

            All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
                           by Richard Brautigan

            I like to think (and
            the sooner the better!)
            of a cybernetic meadow
            where mammals and computers
            live together in mutually
            programming harmony
            like pure water
            touching clear sky. 

            I like to think
            (right now, please!)
            of a cybernetic forest
            filled with pines and electronics

            where deer stroll peacefully
            past computers
            as if they were flowers
            with spinning blossoms. 

            I like to think
            (it has to be!)
            of a cybernetic ecology
            where we are free of our labors
            and joined back to nature,
            returned to our mammal
            brothers and sisters,
            and all watched over
            by machines of loving grace.

Now -- read Human by Chris Viets and The Last Question by Isaac Asimov and Brautigan's poem, just above.