Much has been written about Ray Kurzweil’s prediction of “The Singularity” where advances in artificial intelligence (AI), genetics, robotics, and nanotechnology would allow man to merge with machines, with the resulting god-like cyborgs living forever.
The 2009 documentary Transcendent Man introduced the concept to the public.
Kurzweil’s accomplishments as inventor and futurist, as well as his current position as a director of engineering at Google, has given the idea credibility in scientific and academic circles.
Google seems to be following Kurzweil’s vision of the future as it has been rapidly acquiring the most promising robotics and AI companies.
While many scientists agree with Kurzweil’s premise that technology is accelerating and will soon run away exponentially, many also disagree with his utopian conclusion.
Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and others have been publicly expressing concerns that runaway AI may create a dystopian future, perhaps even the extinction of the human race.
Respected AI researcher Hugo de Garis, who ran the Artificial Brain Lab at Xiamen University until his retirement in late 2010, is decidedly in the dystopian camp.
He has referred to the “Singularity Institute” as the “Singhilarity Institute.”
Nevertheless, he firmly believes that artificial brains will be built and that artificial intelligence will achieve consciousness (as Skynet became “self-aware” in the Terminator films).
In his 2005 book, The Artilect War, Cosmists vs. Terrans, de Garis believes that as the visibility of AI and robotics increases in society, the masses will have the same concerns that Elon Musk and others have about the possible dystopian consequences.
At that point he envisions society breaking down into two camps, the Cosmists and the Terrans:
The Cosmists will be fighting for the creation of artilect gods. It will be like a religion to them. They will aim at creating artilects who can then move out into the cosmos (which is why I coined the term Cosmist), be immortal, massively intelligent, unlimited memory, change their architecture in milliseconds, change their form, find other advanced civilizations in the universe etc.
The Terrans will be fighting for the preservation of the dominance of the human species, so that there is zero risk that humanity gets wiped out by advanced artilects. They will argue that it is the lesser evil that a few million Cosmists be killed so that billions of humans can survive.
He calls the resulting conflict the Artilect War and says:
Imagine getting in a time machine and telling the gay (18)90s Europeans of the horrors of trench warfare in WW1, due to the invention of the machine gun, shells, and gas.
We are talking about 21st century weapons, with a killing power that could put the casualty rate into the billions (gigadeath).
Even though de Garis believes that AI will produce godlike, intelligent machines (that he calls Artilects) and will result in the extinction of the human species, he is still drawn to the challenge.