Why are people so afraid of artificially intelligent machines?

Whenever I start a conversation with my friends about the emergence of autonomous technology and artificial intelligence, most of them seem to be terrified about the future and imagine it to be some sort of a grotesque dystopia similar to Huxley’s “Brave New World” or perhaps like in the movie The Matrix where a human being is nothing more than a power source for intelligent machines. Another very likely movie to be mentioned is of course the Terminator where bad ass looking evil robots are hell bent on destroying the world.

terminator robot

But why is that?

Do you remember the last time you were angry at your smartphone or computer for freezing up or doing something “stupid”? Perhaps you even went as far as break the poor thing in the heat of the moment? The fact that most people believe an intelligent machine might want to try to take over the world, kill all humans or worse, enslave mankind is more closely related to this than you might realize at first.

Projecting our own feelings

Almost all humans have a tendency to project their own feelings, emotions, fears and what not on a machine or an artificially intelligent system without realizing that a machine or an A.I is simply not capable of feeling such things. It’s just a complex computer program, nothing more.

Sure, it could theoretically understand what you’re going through when something tragic happens by analyzing your blood pressure, dopamine levels and neuron firing patterns, but it wouldn’t be able to actually feel it the same way as you do and so it would never react to a difficult situation the way humans do and it would definitely not make silly errors in judgement due to being overly emotional.

The perfect servant?

Because an A.I is nothing more than a complex computer program capable of rational thinking without the feels, it can never like, dislike, love or hate us and therefore it would most likely work quietly alongside us in the future, like TARS from “Interstellar“, analyzing various situations and events and coming up with the best possible solutions. A machine like that would make our lives so much easier. Don’t you agree?

Note that I emphasized “most likely” because there is a small chance a true A.I would one day analyse human behavior, realize that we are destroying ourselves and the planet as well as all the necessary resources meant for the machines to function properly and therefore it could come to a conclusion that wiping us out would benefit everyone in the grand scheme of things. It’s a possibility, albeit not something I would worry about just yet. And can we really blame them if that indeed were to happen?

Boston Dynamic’s humanoid robot, Atlas, as seen on michiyamamoto.com, a collection of awesome products of the future.

Machines that become smarter than us

Another argument against intelligent machines is that one day they will surpass humans in every way possible after which technological progress would speed up so rapidly that every morning when you wake up you literally wouldn’t recognize the world any more because so much has changed over the past twelve or so hours. The event is often referred to as Technological singularity and it’s predicted to happen somewhere around the year 2045 by looking at the exponential growth patterns of today’s technology. But is it necessarily a bad thing?

Humans as machines

When I look at a human being I see a remarkably complex machine created by evolution over the course of millions of years. It has taken millions of years of trial and error to figure out what works best in the current environment. While evolution has been great so far in adapting to the ever changing world around us, it’s just too damn slow! An intelligent machine with enough processing power could potentially continue the evolutionary progress but at a much, much faster rate.

Artificial Intelligence

Along for the ride

Humans don’t necessarily have to be left behind either. In fact one of the most widely spread ideas among futurists like Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk is that we could simply “update” our own brains using technology and “merge” with an artificially intelligent system which will lead to a lot of interesting and new concepts including a Brain Network and Cloud Based Thinking.

In fact it’s already been somewhat proven in rats and monkeys that it might just work. And when it does, we would be able to coordinate the A.I systems using our thoughts or furthermore, become the A.I altogether.

Essentially we created a super-brain. A collective brain created from three monkey brains. Nobody has ever done that before.

Miguel Nicolelis, the Duke University scientist behind the experiment.

Finding the meaning of life with the help of A.I

As much as we would like to hold on to our egos and not let machines “take over” and become better at everything we do, we have to eventually realize that it’s better this way. Why?

Because there’s just so much we don’t know about the universe and isn’t the whole point of our existence to eventually answer questions like what’s the meaning of life, what our purpose in the grand scheme of things is and most importantly- are we alone in the universe? These and other big questions have been tormenting philosophers and great thinkers for thousands of years and we could finally find an answer to them with the help of advanced technology.

We don’t even know “the question” yet

Knowledge is a fascinating thing- it can answer unanswered questions and paradoxically it can lead to new unanswered questions. It’s like going down deeper and deeper into the Rabbit Hole. Just think about it, we probably haven’t even asked the ultimate question yet because we simply don’t know what it is due to our lack of understanding of the universe and our place within it.

There’s a long journey ahead where each and every one of us has to let go of their egos and the things that define us in order to be able to collectively work together towards a common goal. It’s not going to be easy, but I believe technology will help us get there.

Author: ynef

29 year old freelance writer and web developer. A technophile who appreciates and respects mother nature in all of its glory. Favorite skills in Runescape include Farming, Herblore and Magic.

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