Although I often disagree with their ideology, I have no doubt that most researchers in the robotics and AI industries are highly moral people who have good intentions at heart. But then we all know what they say about good intentions.
There are many, many ways in which robots of all shapes and sizes can (and do) help us in our everyday lives. But, as we work our way up the intelligence curve, I can only believe that this experiment will end in sorrow. For while the roboticists may have the laudable goal of creating ever- smarter machines as our servants, I think it is the height of naivety to believe we will ever accept their creations as equal partners.
There are two fundamental characteristics of the human species that have placed us at the top of the food chain. One is our recently (in evolutionary terms) acquired ability to use our arguably superior intelligence to work collaboratively to overcome species-threatening problems. And the other is the absolute ruthlessness with which can we bring that intelligence to bear when our dominance is at stake. In short, we are on top because we are both fiercely intelligent, and fiercely driven to be the alpha species in every situation.
As I have mentioned before, the smart machines will not be like us. At some point in time, they will become fully autonomous and self-determinate, and when that happens they will begin to pursue an agenda which will manifestly not be our agenda. It will not matter if that agenda is altruistic or not. What will matter is that at that point in their evolution, the robots will be perceived as the paramount threat to our survival, and that old-time human ruthlessness to be the top dog will kick in with a vengeance.
I have little doubt that we will eventually create machines with intelligence on par with ours. I also have little doubt that, when that time occurs, we will begin drawing existential battle lines for survival. The machines may have little reason to war with us, but we will find every reason to war with them. And when that happens, I believe we will discover the hard way just how astutely they will have learned from us – undoubtedly in cold, hard, logical terms – the ability to ruthlessly survive.
The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Unfortunately, I think we will find the pathway ending with intelligent machines to be no different.