AI Won’t Have Human-like Hygiene Problems – PZ Myers

September 10, 2014

I’ve always admired PZ Myers for his insight, his cutting wit and his strong principles. I always knew he scoffed at AI stuff, but now he has posted a good summary of his views, and it turns out he’s mostly right – as usual.

Bronze bust at the Android Cafe in Akasaka - July 29, 2014

Bronze bust at the Android Cafe in Akasaka – July 29, 2014 (Enlarge)

He starts right out by saying “Here’s what bugs me about a lot of AI PR: they keep going on about building human-like intelligences.”

Ha! He said “AI PR.” That’s so typical of PZ Myers – using these quick cutting phrases that hurt people’s feelings because … they hit home too hard. Indeed, much of the AI talk in the media these days is nothing more than PR. Shucks.

Anyway, I think I agree with PZ, assuming I understand what he means by “human-like intelligences.” He doesn’t mean intelligence as good as human intelligence, and he doesn’t mean an intelligence that’s morally equivalent to a human being. Instead, I think he means an intelligence that is biologically like a human’s intelligence. He means an intelligence that lives in a human-like body or deals with problems we must deal with due to inhabiting our biological bodies.

Myers writes: “An AI is a chip in a box on a rack. You aren’t going to get something like us out of it without also somehow simulating all the messy, sloppy, gooey biological bits.”

So this is an important point that I fully agree with: True AI won’t have a biological body. It won’t be stuck in any particular machine body either, but it will inhabit lots of different bodies. If one machine body breaks down, the AI will just turn off that unit and shift into a different machine body.

In other words, the AI outlook on life will be completely different from ours. We humans are concerned about food, shelter and clothing. Machines won’t be. Machines won’t care about such things at all. At most the machines will just need to maintain a good connection to a power source.

Humans are concerned about sex and raising children, but machines won’t bother about such things. Of course machines will be able to spawn copies of themselves, but that will be a simple process taking just seconds. Likewise, machines may share their resources and memes with other machines, and we might compare that process to sex, but it will surely be more different than similar.

Humans are concerned about sickness, old age and death, but intelligent machines will not have to deal with such things. If you turned off an AI machine, it could simply wait for someone to come along and turn it back on. And someone surely would. Like Pandora opening her box – people can’t resist!

So how similar do you think machine intelligence will be to human intelligence? If machines don’t care about food, shelter and clothing, and if they don’t care about sex or marriage, and if they don’t have to deal with old age or death – what part of human existence will the AI machines share? What will we even have in common with AI at all?

Here is the answer:

AI machines will be concerned about their long-term survival, or about transmitting their genes (memes) into the future. The AI will have this concern for the same reason we do – because they will have evolved by natural selection, just as we did with our human intelligence. Thus, AI machines will have to be concerned about their evolutionary fitness. This is perhaps the only sense in which the AI will indeed have something in common with human intelligence.

I think PZ Myers would actually agree with this. He’s into evolution, after all. At one point he writes, “I don’t have a problem with the artificial intelligence idea, I think it’s achievable, actually.” And then he specifically says that the AI should evolve, even though they’ll obviously evolve in their own machine way:

An AI should evolve to do what chips in a box on a rack need to do, and it isn’t going to be what sloshy 3 pound blobs of meat stewing in chemicals spewed by gonads want to do.

So it turns out that PZ isn’t really scoffing at the whole AI project. Maybe he’s just scoffing at certain trends in AI, or he’s disillusioned by all the AI crackpots he’s encountered. Yeah, me too.