Pay Your Mortgage, Robots ain’t Gonna Kill us Soon

by Annaelle

There has been a recent media craze about Stephen Hawking’s alleged claim that the development of strong AI could potentially lead to the ruin of humanity.

However, if you bothered to listen to the actual BBC interview in which he said so, you’ll first notice that the interview itself was about Hawking’s upgrading his speech program, and it is cute and endearing whenever he talks about how kids with the same condition as him say : “I want a voice like Steven Hawking”. It is only at the last minute of the interview when he says, in passing exactly the two alarming sentences reported by the media.

– That they could improve really fast.
– That we could get obsolete.

He doesn’t develop more than that. In fact, he isn’t telling us any more than what movies have been telling us for decades, now.
And there’s a reason for that : Stephen Hawking is an astrophysicist, he can talk about stars and gravity and physics and the creation of the world or any of the stuff like that and he’s a world authority. But his word is worth the same as any of ours on topics outside of his field of expertise, and, last I checked, the domain of cognitive sciences had little to do with astrophysics – at least, not so much that expertise in one field was relevant in the other.

Let’s do a thought experiment for a minute. Let’s say that, in 200 years from now, Humanity has progressed tremendously. There is more people on the planet, they are more wealthy, more healthy, more happy. They have more of everything that makes life worth living.
Sounds awesome ? Now imagine those people are all from another culture and that yours is dead.
Does it really sounds any less awesome ? Most people, in fact, react with surprise or disgust at the thought. And yet, this is the exact same situation as before – More, wealth, health happiness, and everything that makes life worth living. Such an hypothetical is objectively better than the one of today, regardless of the existence or lack of any culture i.e. : most people are racist.

New thought experiment : Let’s say that, in 200 years from now, Humanity has progressed tremendously. There is more people on the planet, they are more wealthy, more healthy, more happy. They have more of everything that makes life worth living.
Sounds awesome ? Now imagine those people are all AGI robots, and that there are no humans left.

The question is : Can an AGI robot have any of the things that make life worth living ? A careful analysis of the meaning of AGI – “an artificial intelligence such that it displays the whole range of human cognitive experience” reveals that it does indeed. After all, as said by philosopher David Chalmers, it is our consciousness that makes our lives worth living – if we weren’t conscious, we couldn’t be happy, appreciate our health, our wealth or any other pleasures that life have to offer. But if an AGI does have the full range of human cognitive experience, than it also have all those capacities to be happy, appreciate health, wealth and any pleasure that makes life worth living.

– But why would we want to make robots that are just like us ? You might ask.
– Why do people keep to voluntarily have children ?

I mean to express that, even if we were replaced by hyper-efficient robots – and no one knows for sure if it’s happening soon – we should be just as interested in the social progress and eventual achievements of a robotic civilization as we would for any of our descendants.

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