Robot, AI, destroyed city

Computers Already ‘Quite Capable of Annihilating Humanity’, Expert Warns

2 min read

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It’s never a great day when an expert tells you computers can destroy everything you know and love, but that’s exactly what author George Musser said in the Fiction Science podcast.

As research for his new book, Putting Ourselves Back in the Equation, Musser spoke to AI researchers, neuroscientists, quantum physicists, neuroscientists and philosophers to get an idea of what computers are capable of and how AI might play a role in our future demise.

Musser said the experts he spoke to agreed a “conscious” machine was possible, but it may not be the computers we need to worry about.

“I think dumb machines, unconscious machines are, as is proven in today’s world, extremely dangerous — quite capable of annihilating humanity already,” he said on the podcast. 

“Conscious machines don’t add any particular capability that would enhance, at least in my view, their danger to humanity.

“If anything, I think probably the danger goes the other way, that we’ll mistreat them. That’s unfortunately also in the history of human beings. We tend to mistreat, until we grow out of that, beings that clearly are conscious.”

So, how close are we to conscious computers?

Musser believes we are closer than we might think, but we also really need to define what being conscious actually means.

“We only really have direct access to our own consciousness, and even then there are aspects of myself that I don’t understand and never will,” Musser said.

“We pretty well better understand consciousness if we are to make judgments about the machine systems and ask, ‘Are they conscious?’ Because you need a theory of consciousness just to answer that question.

“ChatGPT, probably not conscious. But a successor? ChatGPT 5? Maybe.”

And this is all very timely given the rumblings of OpenAI having supposedly created the first Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), called Q* (pronounced “Q star”).

According to Reuters, Q* was the reason Sam Altman was fired by his board last week – before being promptly offered his job back – because the development was enough to scare the scientists working on it.

Q* is rumoured to be capable of doing basic maths, which is a major step towards AGI.

“Though only performing math on the level of grade-school students, acing such tests made researchers very optimistic about Q*’s future success,” according to the report by the source to Reuters. 

So given machine consciousness is a plausible theory, could we soon be having a dinner party with our human and robot friends? We’ll have to wait and see.