Computers will soon outsmart us. Does that make an AI rebellion inevitable?

The question, “Will Computers Revolt?” is really many different questions rolled into one. Will computers become the dominant intelligence on the planet and will they take our place? What does being “dominant” mean? Will computers and humans be in conflict? Will that conflict be violent? Will intelligent computers take jobs and resources from humans?

Most AI experts agree that computers will eventually exceed humans in thinking ability.  But then, even more questions arise. When will it happen? What would it be like to ‘exceed humans in thinking ability’? Will computer intelligence be just like human intelligence—only faster? Or will it be radically different?

Although today’s AI systems have remarkable abilities, they are not “thinking” in any general sense of the word.  Accordingly, we now use the terms AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), Strong AI, True AI, and others to differentiate the idea of true thinking from today’s AI systems which have tremendous capabilities but more limited scope.

With the coming of AGI, many new risks will emerge but before exploring these, let’s consider how far in the future this is likely to happen.

When Will AGI Happen?

Sooner than you think!  Why don’t we already have AGI? Two issues hold us back:

  1. Creating the computational power needed for AGI
  2. Knowing what software to write for AGI

AI experts have come up with differing estimates of the computational power of the human brain and predictions of increasing computational power of CPUs. The lines eventually cross at a “singularity” (coined by Ray Kurzweil) with CPUs exceeding brains in terms of brute-force computation in ten years, or twenty, or half a century, depending on the underlying assumptions.

But this may be the wrong question. We all know that lightning-fast searches on a properly-indexed database can produce results a million- or billion-fold faster than the brute-force approach. What portion of AGI will be amenable to this type of software efficiency?

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