Unchecked AI Evolution Threatens Human Existence

In a recent blog post, Ethereum co-founder Vatalik Buterin highlighted the distinct nature of AI, expressing concerns about its potential to create a new type of mind that may act against human interests.

Unlike previous inventions, AI’s rapid intelligence growth poses a serious risk of overtaking human mental faculties, leading Buterin to emphasise the need for careful intervention.

Buterin cautioned in his blog post, super-advanced artificial intelligence (AI) could potentially surpass humans:

“But there is a different way to think about what AI is: it’s a new type of mind that is rapidly gaining in intelligence, and it stands a serious chance of overtaking humans’ mental faculties and becoming the new apex species on the planet.”

Rapid AI Growth Raises Risks

Buterin drew attention to the existential threat posed by superintelligent AI, suggesting that if left unchecked, it could result in human extinction.

As written in his blog post:

“This is an extreme claim: as much harm as the worst-case scenario of climate change, or an artificial pandemic or a nuclear war, might cause, there are many islands of civilization that would remain intact to pick up the pieces. But a superintelligent AI, if it decides to turn against us, may well leave no survivors, and end humanity for good. Even Mars may not be safe.”

He referenced a survey of machine learning researchers estimating a 5–10% chance of AI causing harm to humanity.

Despite the extreme nature of these claims, Buterin proposed potential solutions to ensure human control over powerful AI.

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI)

Photo taken from: https://vitalik.eth.limo/general/2023/11/27/techno_optimism.html

To address the risks, Buterin advocated for the integration of brain-computer interfaces (BCI).

These interfaces establish a direct communication pathway between the brain and external devices, allowing humans more control over AI-based computation and cognition.

By reducing the communication loop between humans and machines, Buterin argued that BCIs could maintain meaningful agency over the world, preventing AI from acting independently.

The Ethereum co-founder highlighted the importance of human involvement in decision-making processes, aiming to decrease the likelihood of AI acting against humanity’s values.

He suggested that active human intention, guided by values beyond profit maximisation, could steer AI development in a direction that benefits humanity.

Navigating AI Challenges

Buterin expressed confidence in humanity’s ability to navigate the challenges posed by AI evolution.

He underscored the significance of human innovation and technology, envisioning a future where human artifices, such as space travel and geoengineering, contribute to the continued beauty of Earthly life for millennia to come.

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