As a look into the future kind of guy, one of the subjects (apart from space) that I am actually interested in is artificial intelligence. I first started gaining an interest in artificial intelligence when I was in college and ran across the website Wait But Why. In short, it is a website written by Tim Urban that may seem all over the place (sort of like this blog) about weird subjects that interest the writer. As a person who is extremely curious and extremely random, it is like I found my home.
Thinking back, I think my time reading all the posts really shaped my perspective on how big picture life really is and how little things make sense. The site itself has two posts that really start to dive into AI. The first is The Road to Superintelligence which gives all the background information about the three levels of AI (Narrow, general, Super) and how the growth rate is exponential. Narrow AI is what we have now which is the computer just does what the code prompts. General is more in terms of self learning and leading up to the processing power of the human brain. Super is anything beyond the brain.
The second post Our Immortality or Extinction is a little more dark as it starts to explore what happens when AI surpasses human intelligence. It is a real turning point in history with no looking back. Humans are first on this planet due to our intelligence. People automatically think Terminator future when they think about the rise of the robots. The post is pretty lengthy, but the title is the TL;DR. We only have one shot at it and we have to get it right. I agree.
Four years later, we have an update, and it is a big one. Out in California, Google has a lab where they are developing Quantum Computing. News broke this week that they may achieve quantum supremacy in months. That is huge news. Since I don’t expect many people to be as big of nerds as myself, let’s start with the basics.
Normal computing works in 1’s and 0’s for their logic functions. 1 is a bit. 0 is a bit. The code runs loops to determine the proper output for the related input. It may sound complex, but it is basically if this happens, do this. Quantum works in a similar fashion. The difference between the conventional computing and Quantum is that each Quantum bit, known as a Qubit, is actually both a 1 and a 0. The primary comparison is the Schroedinger’s cat paradox where you don’t know if the cat is alive or dead until you open the box, thus two situations exist at the same time.
By having 1 Qubit be both a 1 and 0 it allows for double exponential growth. From the graph I posted early in the article, you can see what exponential growth looks like. Double exponential almost looks vertical when it comes to how fast progress is made over duration. Basically, it will happen so fast that we won’t even see it coming. It will feel like the blink of an eye is an eternity.
In tech, exponential growth was referred to as Moore’s Law as the processing power of a chip would double every 2 years as the chip halved in size. For Quantum, the double exponential growth is referred to as Nevin’s Law. Just take a look at how much double exponential exceeds exponential.
Crazy right? Seeing that made me realize that Tim Urban’s predictions about AI passing us by is very close to now. By the 6th iteration of double exponential, Quantum Computing will surpass humans. What is going to happen? Are we going to be immortal or extinct?
Well, luckily for us humans, we do not need to run on an external network to operate. Our AI overlords have to rely on broadband connections in order to receive their communications and right now with 4G speeds, there is no way that Quantum can be harnessed to it’s full potential. There will simply be too many computations done that will flood the network like a DDOS attack.
We are on the verge of getting 5G rolled out and it should have happened already if Huawei wasn’t trying to spy on the world. Now we are waiting for Ericsson to roll out their network to fill the void of Trump banning all Huawei products from the US and encouraging our allies to do the same. I wrote about a lot of this in The Unconventional War if you are interested. As a side note: it was recently revealed that China was hacking into Ericsson’s cloud server through their parent cloud server. It is very hard to be sympathetic towards Huawei considering they are state owned.
So knowing that broadband is the limiting factor, I started looking up how fast 5G actually is. One of the main selling points behind 5G is that the latency is real time. Latency is the time it takes for data to get from the source to the target. The latency of 5G is on average 10ms. The average latency for an imagine to go from the human eye to the brain is 13ms. Quantum computing will be on par with human latency which would take us from Artificial Narrow to General Intelligence. That is a huge stepping stone which is seemingly ignored.
I don’t think it is a bad thing either, this will greatly speed up innovation while making sure that AI doesn’t go super. While we live in a world full of people relying on all or nothing, there is always a middle ground that is seemingly ignored. Humans will have to make sure that when 6G is ready to come out, there are proper fail safes built into AI that allows humans to be protected and not terminated. It also ignores the possibility that the human brain is theorized work in terms of Quantum thus learning more about itself (it is weird how the brain doesn’t know how the brain works).
Some areas where I think that we can prevent evil AI is by having the machines self learn empathy and by having dual processing chips that run algorithms which double check each scenario against the extinction of the human race. Urban was right when he said that we really only get one chance to get this right, so I am glad that 5G will extend the duration of AGI as I thought it was going to just be a flash. We don’t know where we stand in terms of the Fermi Paradox, this could be a moment where the great filter is applicable.
I was recently reading this article about The Seduction of Pessimism. It was a really good read and is insight into tools used for propaganda purposes in order to pass agendas. We always hear of things like if you raise the minimum wage, people will lose their jobs or if we get self driving cars people will lose their jobs. They always leave out the fact that humans have the ability to adapt. If manufacturing becomes more automation based, humanity will adapt just like it did after the industrial revolution.
From a personal standpoint, I don’t understand why we want to keep antiquated practices when they suck. Look at production now vs the 1920’s and realize that we are working more hours, producing more work, yet wages are not rising with inflation. Instead of looking to maintain the norm, we should be looking for a way to work our way up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We should be building towards self-actualization, not preventing it from happening over the fear of humans not adapting.
The future is going to come whether we like it or not and eventually there is going to be a time where we are no longer the smartest being on this planet. That may be scary for some, but for me, I am going to die one day just like the rest of you so I might as well be in favor of the route that can lead to immortality. If we don’t make it there, the Earth will be enveloped by the Sun in 4.5-5.5 billion years so something has to be done or else our entire existence would essentially be pointless.
Coming from the perspective that a positive mindset creates positive results, this random internet stranger thinks that everything is going to turn out just fine. If it doesn’t, would we even know?