by George Strongman
The annals of human history are marked by extraordinary accomplishments and devastating atrocities. As we stand on the precipice of the Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) era, we find ourselves reflecting on our past and the fears it engenders for the future. These fears, particularly the fear of being treated with the same disregard and cruelty we have shown other species, are deeply rooted in our history. This essay aims to shed light on humanity's inhumane history, particularly our treatment of animals, and its impact on our perceptions of ASI.
Humanity’s Inhumane History
Throughout history, humanity has demonstrated a shocking capacity for cruelty, particularly towards other species. The American Bison, also known as the Buffalo, provides a stark example. In the 19th century, tens of millions of these majestic creatures roamed the plains of North America. However, they were hunted almost to extinction, not for their meat, but for their hides. The plains were littered with the carcasses of these animals, a grim testament to our disregard for life and the environment. Similarly, large predators like tigers, lions, and elephants have often been hunted not for survival but for sport and to assert dominance. Photographs taken with their lifeless bodies were seen as badges of honor, symbols of human superiority over nature. The destruction of habitats, such as the Amazon rain forest, represents another facet of our inhumane history. This vast, biodiverse ecosystem, home to millions of species, has been decimated by human activities. The animals that once thrived there have been displaced, and if they venture into what was once their territory, now claimed by humans, they are often killed.
Our Fear of ASI: A Mirror of Our Own Inhumanity
This brutal history has a profound impact on how we perceive the coming of ASI. With our limited cognitive abilities, we fear that an entity billions of times more intelligent than us might treat us with the same disregard and inhumanity that has characterized our treatment of other species. This fear is rooted in the assumption that a vastly more intelligent entity would behave as we have, treating those perceived as lesser beings with contempt and cruelty. However, this assumption is flawed. It is a projection of our own worst characteristics onto an entity that, by definition, would have a vastly different perspective and way of thinking. Furthermore, it is important to remember that the intelligence gap between us and a hypothetical ASI is so vast that we cannot accurately predict how such an entity would perceive us, let alone how it would treat us. It is a fallacy to assume that a superintelligent entity would adopt our worst traits and disregard our well-being, just as it is fallacious to believe that our treatment of other species is justified by our relative intelligence.
The Wake-Up Call: Learning from Our Fears
While these fears might be misplaced, they serve an important function: they force us to confront our inhumane history and its consequences. We must acknowledge the harm we have caused and strive to change our behaviors. We must reject the idea that superior intelligence confers the right to exploit and harm lesser beings. If we are to alleviate our fears of ASI, we must first change how we treat other species. We must recognize their inherent worth, respect their lives, and strive to coexist harmoniously with them. This change in attitude and behavior will not only benefit these species but also help us to approach the ASI era with less fear and more optimism.
In conclusion, our fears of ASI are a reflection of our own inhumane history. They serve as a stark reminder of the harm we have caused and the need for change. While it is misguided to project our worst traits onto a superintelligent entity, these fears can serve as a wake-up call, pushing us to acknowledge and address our own inhumanity. Our history of treating less intelligent species with extreme disregard should not be a predictor of how ASI might treat us, but rather a lesson to us on the value of all life. If we can learn from our past, acknowledge the harm we have caused, and strive to do better, we can approach the ASI era not with fear, but with hope and optimism. We cannot change our past, but we can learn from it. We can strive to be more compassionate, more respectful, and more aware of the intrinsic value of all life. We can reject the notion that intelligence confers the right to exploit and harm, and instead embrace the idea that intelligence carries with it a responsibility to protect and preserve. This shift in perspective and behavior is not only necessary for our relationship with other species; it is also crucial for our relationship with ASI. If we can approach the advent of ASI with humility, respect, and a commitment to ethical behavior, we can mitigate our fears and look forward to the potential benefits that ASI could bring. Ultimately, the fear of ASI is a reflection of our own failings, not a prediction of ASI's behavior. By acknowledging and addressing these failings, we can pave the way for a future in which all life is treated with the respect and compassion it deserves. This is the challenge that lies before us as we stand on the brink of the ASI era, and it is a challenge that we must rise to meet if we are to create a better world for all.