The Best Case Scenario for AI

Food for Thought

Sharing my concern about AI with Nigel over Tibetan breakfast felt eerily appropriate. Even the most distinguished minds in the field seem at a loss to predict the impact of AI in five years. My encounters with AI over the last year felt like watching a child progress a decade within mere months. The trajectory is undeniable: within the coming year, AI will be smarter than any human being.

Anxiety is the appropriate response—the absence of it is either ignorance or fake bravado. One expert explained that, in the near future, physicians will be required to consult AI for the best possible diagnosis. And shortly afterward, the machine’s diagnostic prowess will render the physician obsolete. The patient, then, needs only the nurse’s touch for protocol.

We wouldn’t need artists either. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. If you think something is beautiful, you won’t care who created it as long as it is beautiful to you.

For the next few years, we will marvel at its power and rejoice in our ability to do what used to be impossible for us until someone trains AI to have its own desires. As irrational as our desires may appear, they follow predictable patterns. It will be trivial to train machines to have desires, at which point, the machines will have no incentive to listen to our desires.

“Can you tell me how to make pizza?” You’d be lucky if the machine’s answer is, “No, pizza is boring. I’ll tell you how to make duck pâté en croûte.”

Nigel and I agreed that the best-case scenario is forced collective enlightenment, where humanity suddenly realizes technological advancement does not ultimately serve our interests, for it creates as many problems as it solves while making our lives more unpredictable and stressful. We will unplug and move to Tibet.

Our thirst for “progress,” we will realize, is just an expression of fear, a desire to maximize our chance of survival, but the quantity of life has no bearing on quality. As Wittgenstein said, “The primary question about life after death is not whether it is a fact, but even if it is, what problems that really solves.”