About a month ago, a man discussing artificial intelligence referred to the book, “The Artilect War” by Hugo de Garis Ph.D. He stated that anyone interested in the subject of artificial intelligence and its future would do well to read this book. It sparked my interest so I decided to try to procure a copy. The book was published in 2005 by ETC Publications and is available on Amazon for $65.00. Not wanting to spend part of the weekly food budget on the book, I went to the library to borrow a copy. They needed to get it though an interlibrary loan from a college in Michigan and I received it within a few days. Not being a techie, I was hesitant to give the book a read, but I was appreciative that Dr. de Garis had written the book for non-techies like me.
Dr. de Garis has worked in the A/I field for over twenty years and puts forth his vision of where he thinks that A/I will take the societies of the world during the latter part of the twenty-first century. He believes science will continue to build machines with higher and higher A/I quotients, until they surpass human intelligence and eventually become sentient. He labels these super-intelligent machines “Artilects,” a shortened version of artificial intellects. He believes their development will cause humanity to divide into two groups, the Cosmists and the Terrans.
The Cosmists will consist of those who want to develop the Artilects. “To the Cosmists, building Artilects will be like a religion, the destiny of the human species; something magnificent and worthy of worship.” For the Cosmists, not building the Artilects would be a human tragedy. The Terrans, on the other hand, will fear the Arilects and will believe that the risk involved in developing them should not be taken. They believe that scientists should not build Artilects with AIQ’s billions of times smarter than humans.
Dr. de Garis then lays out in the proceeding chapters the arguments for and against building these god-like machines. His belief is that artificial intelligence is a dual-use technology, not unlike nuclear fission. It can benefit humanity, or if in the wrong hands, will be used to destroy humanity.
He believes that ultimately a major war will develop between the Cosmists and the Terrans when the Cosmists refuse to stop developing smarter and smarter Artilects. He concludes that the Cosmists will win the war because of their fanatical religious fervor. He believes that millions of people will be killed during this future war.
Dr. de Garis wonders if perhaps after humans have developed these god-like machines, that their own creations will destroy humanity. He reasons that Artilects will view humans in a way similar to how we view mosquitos i.e. simply a pest to be destroyed. He fears that this will result in the extinction of the human species and refers to this phenomenon as “Gigadeath.”
Why is this book a must read for thinking people of all religions and races? Is this non-fiction book just so much science-fiction theory? I thought so until I started to do a little research into the field of artificial intelligence.
I first read an article by Jason Barrat of the Huffington Post. The article, “Why Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates are Terrified of Artificial Intelligence,” states that Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking are starting to warn us about what they believe will soon end life on earth as we know it, i.e. super-intelligent machines. These men believe humans will lose control of the machines and that humans will eventually be enslaved or exterminated by them. Their words sound eerily similar to those of Dr. de Garis.
For anyone who thinks this technology is decades away, a look at a YouTube video produced by Boston Dynamics is a wake-up call. Their video highlights the capabilities of the Atlas Robot they are developing. It has been designed to look like a Storm Trooper and can walk, open a door, proceed into the woods, maintain its balance on uneven surfaces, fall down, right itself and get back up. At this point in time, it is guided by humans but at what point in its development will it become autonomous?
Should we be concerned about the safety and ethical concerns in the development of Artilects? At the moment, the US government, under the umbrella of the Defense Department and its DARPA program, is currently working on the development of super-soldiers. One area of their research involves developing battlefield robots. When fully functional, they will be autonomous killing machines that will be programmed to make the kill-decision on their own in the field of battle. Is anyone minding the store when it comes to the ethical and safety decisions regarding these battle bots?
As thinking individuals, we would do well to read Dr. de Garis’s book and realize that it is truly prescient. We cannot hide our heads in the sand and hope that these Artilects will not be developed. They are already being developed and sooner rather than later we will have to address the kind of safety and ethical considerations that go along with this kind of research and development.
Note: Dr. de Gares’s book is now available as a free download pdf.