The Morality of Artificial Intelligence

10 months ago
70 in artificial-intelligence

For a while now, I've been really interested in strong and super intelligence along with consciousness itself. My favorite movies explore these concepts in detail and include:

  • The Matrix series
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • Inception
  • Ex Machina
  • The Thirteenth Floor
  • Tron
  • Existenz
  • The Lawnmower Man
  • I, Robot
  • A.I.
  • Transcendence
  • Bicentennial Man
  • Dark City

I also love fictional books which explore these topics like:

  • Avogadro Corp: The Singularity Is Closer Than It Appears
  • The Daemon
  • Freedom tm
  • Influx
  • Kill Decision
  • Ready Player One
  • Snow Crash
  • Player of Games
  • The Diamond Age

(If you look closely you'll see I've listed every book from Daniel Suarez. I love that author's work. If you have additional books or movies to add to this list, please leave a comment below).

I'm also finishing up Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom (which has been amazing).

As a computer programmer, I'm deeply involved in the tech culture and get to see new things happening a little earlier than most. I built my first websites in 1996 and even then, I was convinced the Internet was going to change the world. I've felt the same way about bitcoin, Voluntaryism, and Artificial Intelligence. To some degree, I feel the same way about Steem, but we're still in the early days so I'm not quite ready to make that call.

Exploring the origins of our morality has been important to me in many ways because of my fascination with the future and how our understanding of morality will shape it. We're all familiar with the dystopian fictions where the robots take over the world, but how many of us explore the real-world influences which could bring about a hell or a heaven? What things can we do now (if anything) to bring about an optimal future if computers can do everything human brains can but orders of magnitude faster?

Smarter people than I have been talking about this stuff for decades. I'm just happy to be along for the ride. I started a Pindex (think Pinterest for people who like educational material) with lectures and content and want to share it with you. It's called...

The Morality of Artificial Intelligence

The board will stay updated with interesting content like this nugget from Nick Bostrom's paper: Future Progress in Artificial Intelligence: A Survey of Expert Opinion:

"...the results reveal a view among experts that AI systems will probably (over 50%) reach overall human ability by 2040-50, and very likely (with 90% probability) by 2075. From reaching human ability, it will move on to superintelligence in 2 years (10%) to 30 years (75%) thereafter. The experts say the probability is 31% that this development turns out to be 'bad' or 'extremely bad' for humanity."

I hope you'll join me on the Morality of Artificial Intelligence Pindex board and suggest new content as well. We as a species should work to figure this out. Most experts think a super intelligent future is inevitable and will happen within our lifetime. The question we should be asking ourselves is what morality should super intelligent beings have and why? These aren't easy questions, and it looks like we have less than 50 years to figure them out.

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69
  ·  9 months ago

It is a fascinating topic. You ask the question "what morality should super intelligent beings have?" And there is the other side of the coin, what should be our ethical considerations in interacting with them?

Are artificial intelligences moral agents? Do they have interests? Is there something it is like to be an artificial intelligence (I love that framing)?

It will take longer than we have to work all these things out, I'm afraid. We haven't even gotten human morality down yet.

As they say, may you live in interesting times... ;)

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70
  ·  9 months ago

I'm almost done with Nick Bostrom's book, and he talks about "Mind Crime" and the ethical challenges we may face if we choose to simulate intelligence in order to figure out the best way forward without destroying ourselves. It's really fascinating stuff, but also a bit scary. We definitely haven't figured out morality (though I'm a big fan of the NAP), but I do think the potential to use super intelligence to help us learn it is fascinating.

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69
  ·  9 months ago

As you can imagine, I'm not a fan of the NAP at all. I don't believe in property rights. I would be in favor of a social convention that provides for some manner of possession, but it would be more akin to "personal effects" than anything like ownership of land, for example.

This is actually very close to where our philosophical differences begin to diverge. I would argue that it is a matter of consistency. Such property rights are not something found in nature, early societies, or even many cultures that currently exist. They are a relatively new phenomenon.

They initially required an assertion of a right which then could only be defended through force, or at least the threat of force. The very existence of these forms of property would seem to violate the NAP, had it been a governing principle when they were established. Wouldn't an adherent of the NAP have to find that it is unjustified to profit from violations of the NAP, in order to remain consistent and intellectually honest?

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70
  ·  9 months ago

I've heard the "personal effects" argument in anarchist Facebook debate groups (I'm in several), and it always breaks down for me. I prefer Jeffrey Tucker's perspective on property rights which he talked about recently at PorcFest. Here's one of his articles which I liked:

https://tucker.liberty.me/the-defense-of-private-property-aristotle-and-mises/

The absence of ownership, then, leads to the disregard of one’s own life and the life of others.

As for defending land rights, that's definitely a more sticky topic. Go back far enough and you'll always find violence. That said, go back further than that and you'll also find non-humans, so we have to be careful to avoid a naturalistic fallacy as well. And yes, I get that agriculture may have been bad for humans, leading to The State and to war, but we can't throw the baby out with the bath water, as they say.

Okay, @bacchist, you made me do it. Let's have a full discussion of where morality comes from over here: https://steemit.com/philosophy/@lukestokes/where-does-your-morality-come-from

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69
  ·  9 months ago

I found a lot to take issue with in Tucker's article, but I'll just comment on bit that you quoted. It relies on an argument from Aristotle that is really quite absurd on its face.

He is making a defense of the idea that women and children are property of men. The alternative that he is defending against is the prospect of "having women and children common." This supposes that women and children can be nothing more than property in one form or another, that they are objects or tools to be used by men as they see fit. He defends the idea of private ownership of women and children on the basis that a man couldn't regard them tenderly unless they were considered his property.

I think that it's a rather sad way of looking at the world.

And it's far from necessary to base social relationships in terms of ownership and objectification. We have knowledge of a much wider range of adaptive strategies than Aristotle was even capable of considering. Cultures throughout the world employ many different configurations of how kinship and descent are organized.

The framing of social relationships in terms of ownership of property is most commonly found in those societies in which there is a strong state with an active military, and whose economic system is based on slavery or bondage in one form or another. This isn't the result of a thought experiment, this is empirical evidence, historical record.

I completely fail to see how this view of the world can be advocated by anyone who favors freedom.

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70
  ·  9 months ago

(Replying to @bacchist)
An important point regarding human ownership:

To read this material, one must always keep in mind how lost the contributions of the Enlightenment truly were on the ancient philosophers. They knew nothing of universal rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion. Still, given that proviso, we can see Aristotle working his way toward a coherent theory of the social order.

I know for certain Tucker isn't advocating slavery here. Private ownership is...

a barrier to the tyrant’s power and control. In its absence, power rules and there is nothing like freedom. Without private property, there can be no free press, freedom of religion, or freedom of association.

and

Despots resent the private life of the people that ownership makes possible.

I agree that:

Ownership and freedom are inseparable ideals, both in their times and in ours.

All that said, I probably should explore more of the ideas behind "personal" property verses "private" property. The arguments I've seen so far in the Facebook groups I've mentioned have not been very compelling, but I always like challenging myself. Thanks again for the dialogue!

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69
  ·  9 months ago

Thank you, as well! It's been a healthy discussion.

54
  ·  9 months ago

Good Article, ty!

58
  ·  9 months ago

Intersting post :)

I think that this is a false problem, because human consciousness is not the fruit of computation.

"Strong AI" is a interesting matter for a movie or a book, but also if we could create machines that behave very similar to real human being under many circumstances, this machine will not have experience of reality as a human being.

So to answer to your question, the super intelligent uncounscious machines created by humans, will have the morality of the human beings who created them.

This is often misundersood because we tend to think that matter is "real" and we postulate (inside our consciousness) that our consciusness is a property of matter, while it is matter that is something inside our consciousness.

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70
  ·  9 months ago

while it is matter that is something inside our consciousness.

That would take a lot of convincing for me to believe. The laws of physics seem to work fairly well, even if we have to make some axiomatic assumptions about reality using our current level of understanding.

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58
  ·  9 months ago

Laws of physics are something your consciousness recognized. You can assume they are "real" because your consciousness recognizes this attribute of reality in them.
You can say that matter exist indipendently from consciousness, but the only thing you can really scientifically observe is that there is this tought (matter exist indipendently of consciousness) in your consciousness.

Understanding that is just an experience, doesn't need a act of faith. While believing that matter is something that exist independently from consciousness is a matter of faith!

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70
  ·  9 months ago

Sounds a bit too much like, "If a tree falls in a forrest and no one is there, does it still make a sound?" We have so many methods for understanding physical reality from physics to math which help us make sense of our existence in space time. If we don't act on those interactions with the physical universe with rationality, then we'll just spend time debating what the true meaning of the world "real" is. To me, that doesn't get us anywhere. If we are going to discover something beyond what we understand now, either in the depths of the quantum world, a multiverse theory, or even a holographic universe, I don't think it'll be by just thinking about consciousness. We're just evolved primates and many, many animals have consciousness along with us. It's not magic, it's just an emergent, evolved property (IMO).

36
  ·  9 months ago

Great article and a hot topic (at least should be)!
On that list definitely missing is "Diaspora" from Greg Egan. It has concepts and ideas far beyond what I have read from almost any other SF novellist. It starts with the creation of a new AI from the very perspective of the growing expanding mind itself. Literally mind-blowing. Partly not an easy read, but for sure worth it.
Wish you success with the Board
All the best,
mapilem
PS: Sorry for my English, I am German from Mother tongue.

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70
  ·  9 months ago

Nice! Thanks for the recommendation, I just went ahead and got it on Audible. And your English is great, no worries there.

39
  ·  9 months ago

"The question of whether a computer can think is no more interesting than the question of whether a submarine can swim." - Edsger Dijkstra

I'd like to think a machine would develop the same morality we could move towards given time - a synthesis of science and spirituality like James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, in which life itself and solidarity with all forms of life are seen as the end goal of morality.

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70
  ·  9 months ago

I have a feeling we'll use machines to help us understand our own morality. They may even reveal that we also are just biological machines.

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39
  ·  9 months ago

Would that be a revelation?

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70
  ·  9 months ago

Unfortunately, for many, it would be. There's a lot of backward, primitive thinking still dominating our cultures and societies. To suggest we are just animals is offensive to many people. To suggest other animals also have evolutionary concepts built in like empathy, tit-for-tat game theory and the like is a revelation to many.