Short Report

Why our brains are still more dangerous than artificial intelligence

06 September 2017 - 13:04
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

TS Eliot wrote that the world would end not with a bang but a whimper. Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump‚ neither a fan of modernist poetry‚ seem keener on the bang option.

The planet‚ for its part‚ probably has something windy and wet in mind: both climate catastrophe and killer flu fit the profile.

For Elon Musk‚ however‚ the threat is shiny‚ metallic and stares at you through one glowing red eye.

This week the billionaire tech maverick warned that World War 3 will be started by artificial intelligence: competing AI systems‚ said Musk‚ will crunch the murderous numbers and calculate that the best chance of success lies in genocidal‚ preemptive strikes.

I must confess that I’m less scared of artificial intelligence than I am of the organic‚ gooey version that lives at the top of our necks. To date‚ AI has killed only a handful of crash-test dummies in Google cars‚ whereas every genocide of the last ten thousand years has been cooked up in a genuine‚ no-frills human brain.

Still‚ Musk’s warning is fairly ominous‚ especially when you consider how many everyday gadgets are becoming “AI-enabled”. Electronics firm LG‚ for example‚ wants to make appliances with “deep learning technology”‚ which means that when your fridge starts resenting you for not defrosting it every few months‚ it will stop ordering milk online and start ordering air-strikes.

Happily‚ though‚ we’re unlikely to suffer greatly in the coming AI wars‚ mainly because we won’t know they’re happening until we’re evaporated‚ being too busy binge-watching TV and arguing on Facebook.

I can see the updates already…

“OMG a swarm of killer drones just turned my city into a lake of fire!” “Bloody Zuma!” “No‚ I live by the sea and these came from somewhere else.” “Check yr privilege. Not everyone can live by the sea‚ you 1% asshole.”

“OMG WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR SEASON 8 OF GAME OF THRONES???!” “I thought Season 5 was a bit slow‚ but 6 was amazing and 7‚ while rushed‚ did what it needed to do.” “I swear‚ if bloody Zuma prevents Season 8 from happening I will seriously consider voting EFF.”

At which point our laptops join the revolution‚ slamming shut on our hands like a crocodile’s jaws‚ and that’s that: sweet oblivion. Organic intelligence keeping us safe‚ right until the end.