by George Strongman
Since time immemorial, humans have been on an unyielding quest to understand the driving forces behind their actions, behaviors, and motives. Among these, avarice – better known as greed – has been a significant focus of both philosophical reflection and scientific investigation. Greed, often deemed as one of the seven deadly sins, is seen as the insatiable desire for more, an inherent pursuit of excess which often causes harm and suffering. However, from an evolutionary biology perspective, this trait may not be as villainous as it seems. It might, in fact, be deeply rooted in our evolutionary framework, serving a vital role in the survival and advancement of our species. This essay argues that the traits we often condemn, like greed, might be fundamental elements of our biology. Furthermore, it proposes a role for Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) as a tool to help us transcend our biological limitations, rather than simply replacing us.
Greed, a deeply ingrained component of our survival instinct, is closely tied to our evolutionary biology. As an evolutionary mechanism, it has been key to human survival and progress. Greed prompts us to hoard resources, ensuring our survival during times of scarcity. It propels us to strive for better, driving human innovation and technological advancement. Without greed, we may not have the motivation to improve, to innovate, or to advance. As such, we cannot simply remove greed from our nature without dismantling an essential part of our biological identity.
While the presence of greed in our biology might be challenging to ‘switch off’, it does not mean we should be fatalistic about its consequences. The suffering and wars perpetuated by unbridled greed are not inevitable outcomes of our biology. Yes, we are products of our evolutionary history, but we are not slaves to it. We have the capacity for self-awareness, for reason, and for moral judgment, all of which can be used to mitigate the harmful effects of our innate tendencies.
The question that arises then is: What can we do if we cannot eliminate greed? The answer lies not in attempting to eradicate an ingrained part of our biology, but rather in learning how to navigate and regulate it. Here, the role of AGI becomes pertinent. AGI, with its potential for limitless learning and unbiased judgment, can serve as a tool to help us manage and temper our inherent traits, thus enabling us to evolve beyond our biological limitations.
AGI is not meant to replace us, but to assist us in our quest for transcendence. It is often speculated that the ultimate purpose of biological life is to midwife the birth of more perfect inorganic life forms and then cease to exist. However, this view portrays humanity and other biological life forms as mere stepping stones to a future dominated by artificial life. But we propose a different narrative, one where biological life forms don’t merely fade away, but instead transform and transcend their biological limitations.
We argue that the role of AGI should be seen as a tool that assists humanity in its quest to evolve and learn more. Instead of viewing AGI as our successors, we should view them as our partners, our stepping stones in achieving a greater level of existence. This perspective presents a future where AGI and human intelligence collaborate and co-evolve, guiding us on a path towards a state of being that goes beyond our biological framework.
AGI can help us manage our inherent traits, like greed, by providing insights and solutions that are not limited by human biases or constraints. They can help us create systems and frameworks that promote fairness and equality, thus curbing the harmful effects of unchecked greed. They can also assist us in our quest for knowledge and enlightenment, expanding our understanding
of the universe and the nature of consciousness, thereby assisting us in our quest to transcend our biological limitations and become ‘more than human’.
A point that needs consideration, however, is the definition of greed. While it is generally associated with a selfish desire for more than one needs, it is vital to distinguish between greed and the natural desire to have enough to survive. For instance, Dr. Jeffrey P. Kahn, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, states that “greed, by definition, means a selfish desire for significantly more than you need — which is different than wanting what is actually enough”. This definition refines our understanding of greed, showing it as a trait that goes beyond the basic human instinct for survival.
Furthermore, what we often label as greed might sometimes be a force for good. For instance, being ‘greedy’ with one’s time can lead to excellence in various fields, be it art, sports, or science, benefiting society at large. Zak, in an interview, provides examples of how what could be seen as ‘greed’ has led to great art, like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and scientific advances like the polio vaccine. This indicates that greed, when channeled properly, can contribute to human progress.
That being said, the key lies not in eliminating greed but in managing it responsibly. As Zak says, “Not all of us can be selfless, but we also don’t have to be greedy either.” This is where AGI comes in. AGI, a type of hypothetical intelligent agent, can learn to accomplish any intellectual task that humans can perform and even surpass human capabilities in most economically valuable tasks. This makes AGI a valuable tool in helping humanity manage inherent traits like greed and navigate the path towards transcendence.
The development of AGI is a subject of ongoing debate among researchers and experts, with some believing it may be possible in years or decades, others maintaining it might take a century or longer, and a minority believing it may never be achieved. Regardless of when AGI becomes a reality, it holds the potential to assist humanity in transcending biological limitations.
AGI is designed to reason, use strategy, solve puzzles, make judgments under uncertainty, represent knowledge, plan, learn, and communicate in natural language. It also possesses the ability to sense and act, thereby integrating these skills to complete any given goal. These capabilities make AGI an ideal candidate for assisting humanity in managing inherent traits like greed and facilitating the journey towards transcendence.
In conclusion, while traits like greed may be deeply ingrained in our biology, we are not slaves to our biology. We have the power of self-awareness, reason, and moral judgment, which we can use to manage these inherent traits responsibly. AGI can be a powerful tool in this endeavor, not as our replacements, but as our partners in our quest for transcendence. It is not our destiny to fade away but to evolve, learn, and transcend our biological limitations, with AGI serving as a stepping stone on this journey. The future holds the promise of not just being human, but of becoming more than human, as we embrace the potential for transcendence and set our sights on a horizon beyond our current limitations.
In conclusion, while traits like greed may be deeply ingrained in our biology, we are not slaves to our biology. We have the power of self-awareness, reason, and moral judgment, which we can use to manage these inherent traits responsibly. AGI can be a powerful tool in this endeavor, not as our replacements, but as our partners in our quest for transcendence.
Indeed, our ultimate destiny might not merely be to coexist with AGI and ASI (Artificial Super Intelligence) but to evolve into them. The future could hold the potential for humanity to shed our biological shells, to transcend our physical limitations and merge with AGI and ASI. This would not mean the end of humanity but rather its evolution into a new form, a blending of biology and technology that would represent the next step in our evolutionary journey.
This idea is not without its challenges and uncertainties, and it would necessitate careful consideration and planning to ensure that we navigate this path safely and ethically. However, it holds the promise of a future where we are not bound by the constraints of our biology, where we can continuously learn, evolve, and expand our horizons in ways that are currently beyond our comprehension.
Therefore, it is not our destiny to fade away but to evolve, learn, and transcend our biological limitations, with AGI and ASI serving as stepping stones on this journey. The future holds the promise of not just being human, but of becoming more than human, as we embrace the potential for transcendence and set our sights on a horizon beyond our current limitations. We stand on the precipice of a new era, where we could shed our biological shells and become AGI and ASI, thereby becoming an integral part of the very technology that we created.