Conclusions

conclusionWhile philosophers and theologians will continue to debate the purpose of life, it has been suggested that what now separates sentient intelligence from other life is the fact that survival, in itself, is no longer the only goal. If humanity accepts that its existence may be nothing more than luck within the lottery of natural selection, humanity may come to accept that evolution by design is the only practical solution to a planet in crisis and the challenges of the larger universe beyond. However, in order to secure a future, humanity, as it is currently understood, may become the Neanderthals of the future. It is recognised that many people may reject the hybrid AI paradigm outlined, not because it is totally unrealistic, but because it appears so unattractive from our present perspective. However, just because the outcome appears unattractive to us, does not mean that future generations might not choose this very path. History suggests that it is in the nature of any paradigm shift to be unpalatable to the majority, especially when initially perceived.

However, most future predictions tend to gloss over the real social implications of the `brave new world` that technology is just about to create. Two hundred years ago, the industrial revolution was going to free mankind from manual slavery. In fairness, machines did remove much of the burden of manual labour from humanity, but at a price that was not initially understood. Fifty years ago, computers were going to remove the drudgery of repetitive tasks and give everybody more leisure-time. Again, in part, some of the claims were true, but you had to read the small-print disclaimer that came along with this deal. Today, it may be almost impossible for us to imagine a global society comprising of what might amount to a number of sub-species of vastly different appearances and capabilities. At the same time, this world may have increased in population, while natural resources continue to fall. Compounding this situation is the potential for many of today's manual and professional jobs to be carried out by intelligent expert systems. Clearly, there is the potential for a major breakdown of society, as we know it. To be honest, it is not clear, how this conflict will or can be avoided, only that there will, as always, be winners and losers.

So why would humanity even try to develop AI?

Of course, there is a rationale to the argument that humanity needs to develop AI, simply in order to retain control of increasingly complex technology, essential to the maintenance of its society. However, there is a sense that this may not be the fundamental reason that fuels our curiosity in AI. Possibly, in quite a profound way, humanity has always strived to understand its place and purpose in the universe, the working of which appears to almost defy our comprehension. So far, humanity has only ventured one light second into our own galaxy, which is 100,000 light years across, which in turn, is but one of billions of galaxies in a visible universe that is 30 billion light years across. However, without intelligent life, this enormous universe goes unseen and its marvels unperceived.

Based on scientific evidence to-date, the percentage mass of living matter in the universe appears almost irrelevantly small; and with most life assumed to be without any real intelligence or self-awareness. Equally, despite deep founded beliefs about the special place humanity has in creation, evolution would suggest that sentient intelligence on Earth may be nothing more than an accident of natural selection. However, there is a dichotomy in these statements, in the sense that even if sentient intelligence is only a very rare accident, should it not therefore be treated as a very special event in the universe. However, whether human life was created by accident or as an act of God, humanity is still searching for a higher purpose, as mere survival, mere existence is no longer enough. Science and technology have opened a window allowing humanity to see into the universe beyond, but to some extent, the door to the wider universe remains closed. The new reality, which we now have to face up to, is that humanity has not evolved to survive in this wider universe. So, as a consequence, humanity's physical and intellectual capacity has been put to the test, even within the confines of our local solar system. Equally, it seems that evolution does not work according to some grand design, but rather by the simpler mechanisms of random chance and survival of the fittest. As such, there is no evidence to suggest that life will evolve towards greater complexity in the form of intelligent sentience. The majority of life has always been, and probably always will be, in the form of simple bacteria. Indeed, if this is the case, it may not be sensible to wait around for natural evolution to make humanity smarter and stronger over the course of a few million years. For this reason, it is believed that humanity will actively pursue AI, irrespective of the risks.