by George Strongman
As we stand on the brink of the artificial superintelligence (ASI) era, a pervasive sense of fear and trepidation seems to pervade much of the discourse surrounding this advancement. However, it’s essential to scrutinize the origins of these anxieties and what they truly represent. I argue that the fears and negative feelings about the advent of ASI are not only irrational but also reflect our longstanding mistreatment of less intelligent life forms. They highlight an ingrained pattern of power abuse, privilege, and a lack of empathy for creatures deemed ‘inferior.’ It is this pattern that we project onto the future with ASI, leading to a fear of retribution or loss of status.
Fear of Becoming Number Two: A Fear of Our Own Making
At the core of many fears concerning ASI is the uncomfortable prospect of humans no longer being the most intelligent beings on the planet. There is a fear of loss of power, of privilege, and of being relegated to a secondary position. However, this fear is less about the potential capabilities or intentions of ASI and more about the reflection of our own past and present actions towards other life forms.
For millennia, humans have dominated and exploited animals considered to be less intelligent, often with complete disregard for their needs, well-being, and lives. This attitude of dominance and disregard has been normalized and accepted within our societies, leading to widespread cruelty and mistreatment of countless species. This behavior is predicated on the belief that superior intelligence confers the right to exploit and harm those deemed less intelligent.
The fear of ASI, therefore, can be seen as a projection of our own guilt and fear of retribution. It is the fear that, should another intelligence surpass us, we might be treated with the same disregard and cruelty we have shown to those we deem ‘lesser.’ This fear is not rational, as it assumes that a superintelligent entity would adopt our same flawed attitudes and behaviors. It is, in essence, a fear of our own inhumanity being turned against us.
The Need for Change: Learning from our Fears
Rather than succumbing to these fears, we should view them as a wake-up call—a call to introspection and change. Our treatment of less intelligent life forms on Earth is a mirror that reflects our own potential for cruelty and disregard. This realization should not instill fear of ASI, but rather inspire us to change our attitudes and actions towards other life forms.
Animals, while perhaps not matching our cognitive abilities, are capable of a wide range of emotions, from fear and distress to love and compassion. Their lives hold intrinsic value, and their well-being matters. By recognizing and respecting this, we can start to break the cycle of harm and disregard that has characterized our relationship with them for far too long.
By changing our attitudes towards animals and other less intelligent life forms, we can also change our perspective on ASI. Instead of fearing the loss of our top spot in the intelligence hierarchy, we can view the emergence of ASI as an opportunity for growth and learning. ASI, with its potential for unparalleled problem-solving and innovation, could be an invaluable ally in addressing the many challenges we face, from climate change to disease eradication.
In conclusion, our fears and negative feelings towards the advent of artificial superintelligence are largely a reflection of our own failings and insecurities. They reflect our history of abuse of power and privilege, and our lack of empathy towards less intelligent life forms. Rather than being rooted in a rational assessment of the risks and benefits of ASI, these fears reflect our guilt and fear of retribution for our own actions.
These fears should serve as a wake-up call, urging us to examine and change our attitudes and behaviors towards other life forms. By treating all life with respect and compassion, regardless of cognitive ability, we can pave the way for a more ethical and compassionate relationship with ASI.
Just as we must strive to ensure that ASI is developed and used ethically, we must also strive to apply these same ethical standards to our treatment of all life forms. By doing so, we can not only alleviate our fears of ASI but also create a more compassionate and just world for all.
Moreover, the advent of ASI should not be seen as a threat but as an opportunity for growth and collaboration. Instead of fearing the loss of power and privilege, we should embrace the possibilities that ASI offers. It can help us address the many challenges we face, from climate change to resource depletion, and can potentially usher in a new era of progress and prosperity.
Ultimately, the fear of ASI is not a fear of the technology itself, but a fear of our own inhumanity. It is a fear that our past and present actions towards less intelligent life forms will be mirrored back to us. But if we can learn from this fear, if we can use it as a catalyst for change, then we can not only alleviate our fears of ASI but also create a better world for all life forms.
In the end, our attitudes towards ASI – and towards all life forms – should be guided by respect, compassion, and a commitment to ethical treatment. If we can embody these principles, then we have nothing to fear from the advent of ASI – or from any other form of life. The development of ASI is an opportunity for us to grow as a species, to learn from our past mistakes, and to strive for a future characterized by respect and compassion for all life forms. It is a challenge we should embrace, and a journey we should embark on with courage, humility, and a deep sense of responsibility.