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  • rmacculloch

Will a Kiwi Make us all Unemployed & Hasten the End of Humanity or be Our Saviour (and I'm being Serious)?

As our Mainstream Media are so busy reporting drivel these days, the most important stories affecting our lives are being overlooked. Oddly its left to obscure Blogs to write about them. Take, for example, the Boy from Rotorua, Shane Legg, that we've commented on from time to time before, who I met up with briefly in London many years ago at Google Headquarters after he had sold his company, DeepMind, to them. He is now Google DeepMind Chief AGI Scientist. Shane coined the phrase "Artificial General Intelligence" and is trying to achieve it. His DeepMind co-founder, Sir Demi Hassabis, has been knighted in the UK. Shane was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) by the British a few years ago. Of course, Shane has not been knighted or recognized by the NZ government, since our honors list is political & comprises a large number of total nobodies, at least compared to the likes of a scientist who is on the way to changing humanity and has become one of the world's most influential people.

Anyway, aside from parochial NZ matters, a few weeks ago, Shane gave an interview, saying the Google Deep Mind models are currently at level 3 of AGI, based on the six levels Google DeepMind has developed. Level 3 is the ‘expert’ level where the AI model has the same capabilities as at least the 90th percentile of skilled adults. But it remains ‘narrow’ AI, meaning it is particularly good at specific tasks. The 5th level is the highest where the model reaches artificial superintelligence & outperforms all humans. A number of influential folks have just signed an open letter on the risks of AI, including Demis Hassabis, Sam Altman (CEO of OpenAI, makers of ChatGPT), Bill Gates (Former CEO of Microsoft), Ilya Sutskever (Co-Founder and Chief Scientist at OpenAI) and Shane Legg. That letter says "Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war". Yes, "extinction" means you. Shane says, "I signed this letter as I believe that AI is an exceptionally powerful technology that must be handled with great care" and "After more than a decade of being told that nobody serious actually believes in catastrophic AGI risks, I think it's fair game to now point out that that's not true".

How scared should you be, compared with climate change & nuclear war? It seems those two may shortly not even figure as serious risks compared to what's about to happen when the machines gain higher levels of AGI, which they are already doing. What is fifth level AGI, by the way? It includes the ability to mind-read (through mechanisms such as analyzing brain signals to decode thoughts), predict the future & communicate with animals (see Shane's paper below on "Levels of AI"). Could Shane & his colleagues be the new Dr Frankenstein? What scares me is that the IT industry may be taking a terrifying turn. The origin of AGI comes from computer scientists like Shane teaming up with neuroscientists like Hassabis to replicate the human brain & then go further by wildly exceeding its capabilities, whereas one of the world's best respected economists, Daron Acemoglu, argues "AI could develop as a beneficial force, however [is] being designed to replace humans as much as possible. We think that’s entirely wrong. The way we make progress with technology is by making machines useful to people, not displacing them. In the past we have had automation, but with new tasks for people to do and sufficient countervailing power in society.”

We may about to be overwhelmed by a force that makes National, Labour, ACT, the Greens and NZ First look irrelevant to everything. Are humans about to go the way of horses, whose population shrank once they stopped being useful in terms of their work capabilities?



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