Artificial intelligence basically refers to the intelligence that is created in the softwares or machines by mankind. Over the last three decades, the field of research on robots and softwares has resulted in an explosion of artificially intelligent machines. For instance, across the globe, there are machines that can think, read, and react within the confines of programs installed in them.
The artificial intelligence is becoming a threat to the existence of humanity since these machines are slowly but steadily replacing the roles of mankind in all spheres of life (Sarriera 31). This analytical treatise attempts to explicitly review the negative effects that artificial intelligence brings to humanity. The analysis is based on the documentary called the Transcendent Man and other relevant academic sources.
Scope of artificial intelligence
The term attributed to artificially intelligent machine is a cyborg, or a contraction of a “cybernetic organism” with the original function of incorporating machines into human processes to gather, store, and transfer activities to make the functions more efficient and fast.
In order to make the machines more effective in their functions, which include supplementing or augmenting human capabilities, whether physical or mental, such machines have “self-regulating system” called the artificial intelligence (Clark 21). Despite the numerous benefits to humanity, the overall threat supersedes these merits.
Proponent of artificial intelligence
In the documentary, Transcendent Man, the threats to humanity by an artificial intelligence is clearly presented. The main protagonist of artificial intelligence called Raymond Kurzweil, who is a transcendent computer scientist and engineer, is afraid of death, and wants to introduce artificial intelligence as a possible solution to his worries.
Kurzweil confesses that “I don’t accept death” (Transcendent Man, scene 2). It is basically the nature of mankind to avoid death by all means possible, even if it means using other forms of life protection (Toffoletti 22).
Kurzweil, who is referred to as the “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison”, has tremendous and admirable achievements, especially his invention of reading machine for blind people. Most importantly, this documentary aims to introduce is his idea of singularity. Through this idea, Kurzweilportrays many fancy possibilities.
For instance, he believes that the technology grows exponentially, so that “we are going to be a hybrid of biological and non-biological intelligence” and “there won’t be a clear between humans and machines” in the near future (Transcendent Man, scene 3). Artificial intelligence will give us super intelligence and help human stop aging to become immortal. Across the documentary, Kurzweil is busy doing related researches and experiments to get closer to achieving singularity.
Kurzweil’s artificial Intelligence research is motivated by his emotional desire that wantsto bring his father back to life, which undoubtedly is touching. However, the antagonists of singularity, from the same technology industry, thinkthat Kurzweil is a crock pot not because of his proposal and optimism. This criticism of Kurzweil is inspired by the possible threat of artificial intelligence to humanity (Transcendent Man).
The Negative Effects that Artificial Intelligence Brings
There is always a potential risk that these artificial machines will “wipe out humanity” (Transcendent Man, scene 4). Kurzweil is too optimistic with the application of AIs in the future. It is possible that human beings will not remain at the apex of the biologicalchain after the emergence of artificial intelligence machines.
As opined by Kurzweil, the AIs that he is planning to build are 10,000 smarter than mankind, with super intelligence and immortal bodies. In other words, proponents of artificial intelligence are building “gods” as expressed by Hugo de Garis (Transcendent Man).
From the ideas of Kurzweil, it is apparent that there are huge benefits that AIs could bring to human kind. For instance, mankind will not need to worry aboutdiseases and death anymore, since illnesses can beovercome with super intelligence. However, the dilemma is how to control the AIs, since they are actually a superior speciesof human beings (Clark 24). They are much more superior to the ordinary pets that mankind has learned to tame and control.
Therefore, the creators of artificial intelligence do not provide a guarantee that mankind will have a mastery of AIs. From a personal perspective, I consider that the existence of AIs is a threat to the existence of humanity, despite the underlying benefits.
There is little that mankind will be able to do if the superior species with self-consciousness decide to replacehumanity some day. Since the AI machines are 10,000 times superior to mankind, an effective defensive ability against such machines will not be possible. At worst, the human race could be extinct when the defense mechanism fails (Toffoletti 19).
As result of emotional approach to his research, Kurzweil does not considerthe possible negative consequences that AIs might bring to human as worth worrying about.
From the ethical perspective, I opine that the singularity idea is also against the laws of nature. Instead of focusing on possible threats of AIs, Kurzweil blindly follows his desires and advantages of AIs such as being godlike, super intelligence, and immortality, at the expense of the possible extinction of humanity. Apparently, the transcendent artificial intelligence engineer is an escapist who immerses himself in the tragedy of death; profound loss of relationships, knowledge, skill, and meaning so that he refuses to accept death (Sarriera 13).
Duality is prevalent in most of the ideological structures that people subscribe to during the last century. However, with the advent of digital technology, the separation and classification provided by beliefs in duality are becoming problematic. The most apparent duality challenged by the new digital realm is duality between man and technology. If singularity comes true one day as proposed by Kurzweil, artificially intelligent machines may alter the existence of the entire humanity.
There might be a war in the future between people who support the singularity idea of becoming godlike and people who strongly opposing his idea (Clark 28). It is sad that the singularity idea will put the entire human race at risk simply because of Kurzweil’s strong individual interests to save his father. The position held by Kurzweil portrays him as a selfish person who can sacrifice the entire humanity to save one soul.
In Kim Toffoletti’s article, Cyborgs and Baby Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Feminist Body, the author tries to answer the question, what is posthuman? Theauthor identifies scientists such as Kurzweil as “positioning technology to be negative force: AIs will control and dehumanize what is human in us” (Toffoletti 12).
Moreover, Toffoletti (2007) notes that conservative positions regarding cyborgs and human-machine hybridism even identify how the integration of machines into the body serve as a means for social engineering and manipulation: Therefore, “the‘social’ and ‘abnormality’ of organic decay acts as an ideological sign that channels people toward the consumption of services for body reconfiguration” (Clark 19).
As a result, mankind will lose the ability to imagine, think, and respond naturally to different stimulants. Mankind may lose the position being in control of the AIs, which will have higher intelligence than those who engineer them such as Kurzweil.
The other threat to humanity as a result of artificially intelligent machines would be lose of mankind’s ability to transition from reality to illusion, especially when such machines are put ina human body. According to Toffoletti (2007), “the post humanwill merely operate as a site of ambiguity, as a transitional space where old ways of thinking about the self and the other, the body and technology, reality and illusion, can’t be sustained” (Toffoletti 14).
As indicated by Toffoletti, the problem within the underlying imagination and proposal by scientists such as Kurzweil on singularity is that it does create another duality, the material is less important than ideas. This is a problem, especially since bodies are still sources of how we define our identity. Thus, the tendency of viewing the post human as a purely conceptual being controlled by the artificially intelligent machines may actually happen in the near future if the singularity idea is not stopped (Toffoletti 19).
The last threat to humanity as a result of artificially intelligent machines is the complete dependency on such machines. When complete dependency occurs, mankind will no longer be able to survive without artificial intelligence. To illustrate how integrated human lives are in technology, one can look into the observations of Paul Miller, who is the Verge’s senior editor.
In 2012, Paul Miller had decided to stop using the smartphone for exactly one year. As he writes about his experience “offline,” he describes that when he stopped using a smartphone (because the device required internet connectivity for its functions), he found himself reaching for his lost phone anyway when he heard a sound notification. Miller compares it to the experience of “ghost limbs”,which is what people who have their limbs amputated also feel. Amputated persons feel pain from the leg that had been lost, even if it doesn’t exist anymore.
The fact that this same reaction applies to a missing smartphone only serves to demonstrate how artificially intelligent machines have become extensions of the human self. At the elementary level, mankind has become“integrated psychologically with the instruments that serve us” (Miller, par. 5).
What’s interesting is that the smartphone is not an implant, and yet its effects on the self are in accordance with a post human or cyborg. Therefore, introduction of an AI machine which is 10,000 times superior to mankind as proposed in the singularity idea will transform the current elementary technological dependency to advanced dependency, which is not good for the survival of mankind.
From the above reflection, it is necessary that Kurzweil should be objective on the artificial intelligence and the singularity idea. The transcendent engineer should see the underlying ethical dilemmas and real threats that artificially intelligent machines will bring to humanity, instead of being too optimistic about the possible benefits that Artificial Intelligence could bring to human kind.
The singularity idea in its current form is a threat to the unwritten rules that have sustained the life of mankind for several centuries and millenniums. Therefore, Kurzweil should think rationally and prudently to avoid making tragedy for all human beings by irreversibly transforming them.
Clark, Anthony. Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and the Future of Human Intelligence, Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
Miller, Paul. Offline: Ghost limbs. 2012.
Sarriera, John. Connecting the Selves: Computer Mediated Identification Processes: Critical Cyber-Culture Studies, New York, NY:New York University Press, 2007. Print.
Toffoletti, Kim. Cyborgs and Baby Dolls: Feminism, Popular Culture and the Posthuman Body, New York, NY: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd, 2007. Print.
Transcendent Man. Perf. Tom Abate, Hugo De Garis, Raymond Kurzweil, Docurama Films. 2011. Film.