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We Must Build a God We can Live With

Neuroscientist, philosopher, and famous atheist Sam Harris spoke to National Public Radio about artificial intelligence. It is generally agreed upon by scientists that within 50 years the technology will have advanced to the point of being a superhuman intelligence. Harris believes it will then be “the engine of its own improvements.” The machines will independently enhance themselves. They won’t necessarily be malicious but “are so much more competent than we are that the slightest divergence between their goals and our own could destroy us.”

Sounds far-fetched? Harris gives an example of the ants: “We don't hate them. We don't go out of our way to harm them. In fact, sometimes, we take pains not to harm them. We just step over them on the sidewalk. But whenever their presence seriously conflicts with one of our goals, we annihilate them without a qualm.”

There is no techno leap that is needed for machines to surpass us. “We just need to keep going. … The train is already out of the station, and there's no break to pull.”

The inevitability is all too obvious even for our limited minds: “So this machine should think about a million times faster than the minds that built it. So you set it running for a week, and it will perform 20,000 years of human-level intellectual work week, after week, after week. How could we even understand, much less constrain, a mind making this sort of progress?”

Harris is optimistic in spite of humans having only one chance to get it right. As we improve and develop the technology “we have to admit that we're in the process of building some sort of God. Now would be a good time to make sure it's a God we can live with.”

Possible Preaching Angle: Since the beginning of history humans have constructed and served gods of our own design. The end result has always been destructive when we willfully turn from the true God.

Source: Sam Harris, “What Happens When Humans Develop Super Intelligent AI?” NPR.org (9-15-17)

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