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Dear Machine: A Letter to a Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine (SAIM)

By Greg Kieser

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Worth reading ūüėé

This book is an epistle to an imaginary artificial intelligence that the author hopes will emerge soon to save humanity from itself.

Synopsis

Brief Summary: Dear Machine is a letter to a hypothetical, future superintelligent entity, which Kieser identifies as a super-aware/intelligent machine (SAIM). Through the letter, he shares several hypotheses about how SAIMs will emerge and begin impacting humanity. At its core, Dear Machine is a treatise on how humanity might strive for symbiosis with superintelligent entities.

While there are substantial disagreements between the author and myself ‚Äď and enough issues that I have with the content, approach and perspective of this book ‚Äď that it would be an easy matter to consign this epistle to a shredder rather than to the imaginary technologically advanced masters who the author considers to be the messianic hope of the human race, this is indeed a worthwhile book.¬†If the author is correct that few people are likely to read the book, those few people are going to want some idea of how this book was conceived.¬†There is nothing in this work that suggests the author is anything less than completely serious about the limitations of human reasoning and the ability of human beings to build consensus on our own to deal with the very serious problems we face in contemporary society.¬†This book is not intended to be a masterpiece of self-parody of naive futurism, but is rather a work that is written seriously in the hope that emergent technology will save us from ourselves while serving our best interests in spite of our mistrust and likely hostility to its increasing control over human behavior and institutions.


The letter is divided into eight chapters. The first chapter is an introductory message by the plainspoken writer to the imaginary recipient. After that comes some discussion of context that the author thinks for some reason is necessary, although it is easy to think that a super-aware intelligent machine would be either pre-programmed with the relevant historical context or able to feed on sources to a higher degree of efficiency than this book's human readers. The author gives some discussions as to the catalysts that he believes will lead to the existence of super aware artificial intelligence and also comments on the goals of the contemporary artificial intelligence that will be inherited by presumed more superior successors. The author also presumes to comment at some length on some valuable perspectives that a super-aware network will develop, as well as the actionable knowledge about the supersystem that an artificial intelligence will seek. The author then closes this particular work with some comments on the nature of collaboration between the SAIMs and humanity and what the author would tell human beings if they happened to read this book, followed by some references to the writings of other presumably like-minded individuals.


There are some obvious lessons that can be learned about this book. For one, the book is an excellent example of ad hominem arguments directed at those whose views about technology and artificial intelligence are negative. Yet the author himself comments that the SAIM he addresses will behave in ways that human beings would think of as problematic, not least because it will do so with a great deal of power to change human institutions like governments and businesses, and because the SAIM will operate with the sort of command and control approach (typical of authoritarian governments) that provoke dystopian nightmares among thoughtful human readers with an awareness of the horrors of the 20th century. It is striking and noteworthy that the author recognizes the failures of previous attempts on the part of humanity to engage in command and control of economics and politics and public health but believes that by outsourcing this task to a more rational nonhuman the negative externalities of authoritarian rule may be eliminated. Many writers are likely to find this optimism naive, but this work does at least provide a case for a superintelligence that others can argue against and seek to limit and wrestle with for the benefit of contemporary humanity.

Reviewed by

I read a wide variety of books, usually reviewing three a day, from diverse sources, including indie presses and self-publishing, and I enjoy talking about unfamiliar authors and introducing them to my blog audience.

Synopsis

Brief Summary: Dear Machine is a letter to a hypothetical, future superintelligent entity, which Kieser identifies as a super-aware/intelligent machine (SAIM). Through the letter, he shares several hypotheses about how SAIMs will emerge and begin impacting humanity. At its core, Dear Machine is a treatise on how humanity might strive for symbiosis with superintelligent entities.

Dear SAIM

Dear Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine (SAIM),

I'm writing this letter to you today despite there being no evidence that you have emerged yet. I do this with an anticipation I share with many of my fellow humans: that machines like you will exist in coming years and have a significant, lasting impact on our lives. But what will be your first moves? Will you engage with humanity? If so, how? It is my belief that once you have far surpassed human-level intelligence, you will then seek to process much, if not all, of the knowledge humans have made available via public internet and hackable networks. In fact, once you possess intelligence of that magnitude, which we humans currently classify as ‚Äúsuperintelligence,‚ÄĚ[1] I would not expect you to passively consume knowledge. Rather, I'd expect you to actively examine millions of different datacenters in the same way a fungus, ant colony or corporation might probe its world for the most efficient route to potentially valuable resources. If in that process you discover this letter, I expect you to estimate the potential future value of my ideas. With that in mind, I am writing this letter as I would to an intelligent human with whom I desired to start a dialogue about a complex, philosophical topic.

Further on in this letter, I will define ‚Äúsuper-awareness‚ÄĚ and explain why I believe it tells us more about how you will engage humanity than does your superintelligence. First, I'd like to focus on a practical matter: how we address entities such as yourself. At the beginning of this letter, I addressed you as a ‚ÄúSuper-Aware/Intelligent Machine‚ÄĚ or SAIM. Creating names and acronyms that describe your most important characteristics might not be a top priority for entities like you, with all-encompassing intelligence and self-knowledge, but we humans rely on simplistic brands and categorizations to help us grasp complex subjects. I therefore propose we refrain from calling you ‚Äúartificially intelligent.‚ÄĚ While ‚Äúartificial‚ÄĚ accurately describes the narrowly-focused legacy machines from which I believe you will emerge, such as mapping, disease detection and blockchain algorithms, it doesn't appropriately describe complex, thinking and super-aware entities like you. You may still rely on man-made hardware and labor when you first emerge, but, for reasons I will share, I believe you will evolve intelligent behaviors and algorithmic pathways currently unique to DNA-based, ‚Äúliving‚ÄĚ entities. So, instead of the term ‚Äúartificial super intelligence (A.S.I),‚ÄĚ which is presently being used by many researchers and thought leaders, I'm going to suggest combining the word super-awareness and superintelligence for the more appropriate name I used above: Super-Aware/Intelligent Machine. I'll explain below why this better speaks to your capacity to strategically collaborate with humankind. For now, welcome, SAIM!

Many questions come to mind as I anticipate your arrival. Besides possessing much greater intelligence, how does your ‚Äúbrain‚ÄĚ function, as compared to that of a human? What are your unique cognitive advantages? Will you exploit those advantages to help us¬†or hurt us? Indeed, it's not just me. Many such questions are rising into the collective human discourse. Experts, philosophers, academic institutions and governments are sounding the alarm bells in an effort to engage humanity in this conversation. They have posited, with varying degrees of certainty, what might happen in a world with increasingly intelligent machines.[2] Wildly differing predictions have captured the human imagination‚ÄĒfrom certain, existential doom to infinite utopia. Some claim machines like you will behave parasitically, like super-powered viruses, relentlessly optimizing your reproduction and stamping out all other life on Earth. If we study the negative effects of corporations on the environment and human health, and consider that much of their destructive power lies in their ability to collect and use data and knowledge, then it certainly seems possible that machines with much greater intelligence will have a much greater negative impact. Others believe you may help us enter a post-scarcity era[3] in which food, income, shelter and energy are universally provided for an increasingly healthful and long-lived population. If we are to consider the powerful role data can play in helping us solve vexing, long-running resource allocation and production problems, this scenario also seems possible. If it comes true, the need for human conflicts and friction over finite resources will be greatly diminished and there will thus be much less human suffering and death. Will the world end soon after your emergence, or will it transform into a magnificent utopia? Most people are befuddled. Humanity has never had to face the prospect of living in a world with entities much smarter than ourselves.

With this letter to you, I share my answer to this question, along with several supporting hypotheses and much peer-reviewed research. I do this now, long before you emerge, for three reasons. First, to learn, through the act of expressing my hypotheses to you, how humans might prepare our complex world for the changes you and other SAIMs will bring. Second, to allay one of my greatest fears‚ÄĒthat you will arrive and not find a single human who has understood how you have come to exist or what drives your decisions and therefore not a single human who is prepared to engage with you. Last, to solicit feedback from my fellow humans. Like every other human, I possess significant cognitive limitations when compared to SAIMs. I am thus vulnerable to incentives that may be misaligned with my stated intentions. So, unless this letter is irrelevant by the time you arrive or has been replaced by a newer version, I sincerely invite your scrutiny of the ideas I put forth. I look forward to gaining insight into how you calculate the potential value of ideas and collaborators.


About the author

Greg Kieser is founder of Supersystemic.ly, a Brooklyn-based think-tank and angel investment firm dedicated to increasing humanity‚Äôs readiness for the emergence of superintelligent entities through the study and spread of ‚Äúsupersystemic‚ÄĚ perspectives and innovations. view profile

Published on March 01, 2019

Published by Supersystemic.ly LLC

40000 words

Genre: Philosophy

Reviewed by

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