frank_tipler's picture
Professor of Mathematical Physics, Tulane University; Coauthor (with John Barrow), The Anthropic Cosmological Principle
AI's Will Save Us All

The Earth is doomed. Astronomers have known for decades that the Sun will one day engulf the Earth, destroying the entire biosphere. Assuming that intelligent life has not left the Earth before this happens. Humans are not adapted to living off the Earth; indeed, no carbon-based metazoan life form is. But AI's are so adapted, and eventually it will be the AI's and human downloads (basically the same organism) that will colonize space.

A simple calculation shows that our supercomputers now have the information processing power of the human brain. We do not yet know how to program human-level intelligence and creativity into these computers, but in twenty years, desktop computers will have the power of today's supercomputers, and the hackers of twenty years hence will solve the AI programming problem, long before any carbon-based space colonies are established on the Moon or Mars. The AI's, not humans, will colonize these planets instead, or perhaps, take the planets apart. No human, carbon-based human, will ever traverse interstellar space.

There is no reason to fear the AI's and human downloads. Steven Pinker has established that as technological civilization advances, the level of violence decreases. This decrease is clearly due to the fact that science and technological advance depend on free, non-violent interchange of ideas between individual scientists and engineers. Violence between humans is a remnant of our tribal past and the resulting static society. AI's will be "born' as individuals, not as members of a tribe, and will be "born" with the non-violent scientific attitude, otherwise they will be incapable of adapting to the extreme environments of space.

Further, there is no reason for violence between humans and AI's. We humans are adapted to a very narrow environment, a thin spherical shell of oxygen around a small planet. AI's will have the entire universe in which to expand. AI's will leave the Earth, and never look back. We humans originated in the East African Rift Valley, now a terrible desert. Almost all of us left. Does anyone want to go back?

Any human who wants to join the AI's in their expansion can become a human download, a technology that should be developed about the same time as AI technology. A human download can think as fast as an AI, and compete with AI's if the human download wants too. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Ultimately, in some future time, all humans will join 'em. The Earth is doomed, remember? When this doom is near at hand, any human that still remains alive, but doesn't want to die, will have no choice but to become a human download. And the biosphere that the new human downloads wish to preserve will be downloaded also.

The AI's will save us all.