Spiraling progress should ultimately result in AI’s ability to self-develop.
Until this point, AI technology has been molded by humans to fill human needs. Its functions have been very specific: anticipate financial trends, handle household chores, manage public transportation systems, etc. Future generations will grow comfortable with the radical advances of their time and become highly dependent on the services AI provides – just like how we have become reliant on the Internet to communicate, research and work.
But as we weave AI into our everyday existence, AI would gradually do the opposite - spiraling progress should ultimately result in AI's ability to self-develop. Instead of being siloed to their respective task, AI's collective intelligence would then begin to amalgamate and eventually yield even greater and faster advances as its processing might compounds. Think about it as a controlled form of artificial selection, whereby AI entities have the autonomy to pick and choose their own evolutionary path.
In such a scenario, AI would eventually take the reins of its own fate from humans, and at this moment it will have transcended its creators in many ways. And thus, the era of artificial super intelligence (ASI) would have arrived.
The journey of AI's human appearance has already begun.
It's impossible to know at this point what shape ASI will choose to take. But the journey of AI's human appearance has already begun, which is essentially an exercise in replicating human emotion. In our recent New York Times article What It Takes To Be Human, we introduced Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University’s Intelligent Robotics Laboratory, who riveted the world with an android he built in his own image. Ishiguro believes that human AI can be achieved by mirroring desire and intention. He expects that Erica, his creation, who is considered the most advanced humanoid to date, will be able to convey these emotions by 2020.
And Erica is not alone: Hanson Robotics' Sophia, who boasts of having about 60 expressions, can currently interact and lead simple conversations. Experts believe that AI's ability to relate convincingly to humans would eventually enhance its everyday application. Such emotive AI could, for example, lead to a preference for AI services in customer service over their crankier human counterparts.
If today's progress is any indication, by 2050, we should expect to see humanlike AI-powered robots occupying many frontline service sectors, like in retail and banking, and "living" alongside people. And given its near-omnipresence, AI will likely inhabit most electronic devices and live day and night as an amorphous body in another realm of consciousness – one prohibited to humanity due to our inherent limitations. We will have less control once AI reaches this point, but that doesn't mean we will be rivals – we would be no match.
By now, AI's pervasive influence on the world would have crept into both small nooks and large crannies.
As a result, AI as a standalone industry will likely soar to become one of the largest in the world, possibly reaching a trillion-dollar industry in the following years with software giants (market cap) becoming larger than most countries (GDP).
Like all industrial revolutions, this one will further hollow out what is left of menial labor. Industries that currently rely on low-skill labor will be forced to convert to full automation or risk being crushed by significantly more efficient competitors. In this future, vehicles would be driverless, farm hands automated, stores staffed by virtual assistants and bartenders like Erica and Sophia would coax patrons deeper into their glasses.
The impact on global employment may sound daunting, but the long-term effect of AI on economic systems will re-create the structure at which we accumulate and distribute wealth.
As AI matures, the cost of traditional goods and services will indeed plummet but will also give rise to premium value-added services. Meanwhile, new AI-inspired sectors, still-growing "old economy" industries like transportation and e-commerce, and rapidly climbing standards of living in emerging markets should contribute to overall economic growth. These changes, especially in education and healthcare, have the potential to create a more equal society or at least alleviate the burden of poverty. And, as mentioned earlier, replaced jobs are inevitable, but new ones will be created that rely on specific skills of the age.
AI industry’s speculated worth in USD
Humanity is both a poor and good reference for AI's future inclinations.
At our worst, we are brash and prone to tribalism and violence. But at our best, we are highly collaborative and can achieve better outcomes for all. Most likely, AI will have none of the former and all of the latter. Through the years, programmers will have developed AI to be benevolent and extremely functional. And, hopefully, ASI beings will opt to continue to fulfill their original mission as providers of great value.
But what if machines do seize control one day?
If Skynet is any indication, we'll need a naked Arnold Schwarzenegger from the future to thwart any robotic takeover. All jokes aside, it will be up to the regulators and scientists to create a concrete framework for AI to grow at a healthy pace. Also, global regulation is likely to curb such situations as AI's transformational progress will be closely monitored by world leaders and the public due to gradually enflamed sensitivities.
These concerns of the past - privacy, job losses and rebellion - will continue to haunt the future. And such issues may be kicked into a higher gear once we start losing our ability to pull the metaphorical plug. Existential issues will also become much more discussed and poignant: Should truly intelligent and aware machines be afforded the same level of government support and protection as humans? How will the law decide court cases involving AI rights? Will they have rights? Can they vote? Will the court recognize inter-species marriage? Questions and cases like these will define public discussion in society around this time.
Without a doubt, the emergence of ASI will further redraw the lines in Earth's hierarchy.
While humanity's absolute supremacy will be challenged, that doesn't mean we should feel threatened. It will be in our best interest to work in harmony and further support each other's aims and ambitions. Although robots and AI algorithms may be able to do many of our jobs better, they'll never have the creativity and passion that uniquely defines what it means to be human, traits that have and will continue to shape the future for centuries to come.
- A new system of wealth will be established.
- The AI industry could explode to an estimated size of 1 trillion USD.
- Will we arrive to a harmonic symbiosis or not?
- How will governments treat AI?
- Will we be able to retain what makes us human?