Steven Pinker believes there’s some interesting gender psychology at play when it comes to the robopocalypse. Could artificial intelligence become evil or are alpha male scientists just projecting?
I think that the arguments that once we have super intelligent computers and robots they will inevitably want to take over and do away with us comes from Prometheus and Pandora myths. It’s based on confusing the idea of high intelligence with megalomaniacal goals. Now, I think it’s a projection of alpha male’s psychology onto the very concept of intelligence. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems, to achieve goals under uncertainty. It doesn’t tell you what are those goals are. And there’s no reason to think that just the concentrated analytic ability to solve goals is going to mean that one of those goals is going to be to subjugate humanity or to achieve unlimited power, it just so happens that the intelligence that we’re most familiar with, namely ours, is a product of the Darwinian process of natural selection, which is an inherently competitive process.
Which means that a lot of the organisms that are highly intelligent also have a craving for power and an ability to be utterly callus to those who stand in their way. If we create intelligence, that’s intelligent design. I mean our intelligent design creating something, and unless we program it with a goal of subjugating less intelligent beings, there’s no reason to think that it will naturally evolve in that direction, particularly if, like with every gadget that we invent we build in safeguards. I mean we have cars we also put in airbags, we also put in bumpers. As we develop smarter and smarter artificially intelligent systems, if there’s some danger that it will, through some oversight, shoot off in some direction that starts to work against our interest then that’s a safeguard that we can build in.
Who is Steven Pinker?
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist and one of the world’s foremost writers on language, mind, and human nature. Currently Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, Pinker has also taught at Stanford and MIT. His research on vision, language, and social relations has won prizes from the National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, and the American Psychological Association. He has also received eight honorary doctorates, several teaching awards at MIT and Harvard, and numerous prizes for his books The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, and The Better Angels of Our Nature. He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and often writes for The New York Times, Time, and other publications. He has been named Humanist of the Year, Prospect magazine’s “The World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals,” Foreign Policy’s “100 Global Thinkers,” and Time magazine’s “The 100 Most Influential People in the World Today.”