AI, avatars and the end of humanity

More than 350 AI experts and industry leaders have issued a warning, expressing concerns that AI has the potential to cause the extinction of humanity. This is the message as published by the Center for AI Security (CAIS):

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority, along with other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

Among the signatories of this message is Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. Other prominent figures from OpenAI, as well as experts from partner company Microsoft, have also endorsed the message. Notably, competitors like Google and Anthropic, as well as renowned academic experts, have joined in as well.

The message doesn’t provide specific examples of how AI could lead to our extinction. However, CAIS’s website highlights various dangers associated with AI, ranging from immediate concerns like misinformation and manipulation to potential future risks, such as rogue systems that could mislead humans and pursue their own objectives, ultimately posing a significant threat to humanity.

Believers in artificial general intelligence (AGI), including Altman, envision a scenario where superintelligences exponentially and autonomously surpass human capabilities, potentially leaving us behind.

However, not everyone shares this view. Chief AI scientist Yann LeCun of Meta argues on Twitter, “Super-human AI is nowhere near the top of the list of existential risks, largely because it doesn’t exist yet. Until we have a basic design for even dog-level AI (let alone human level), discussing how to make it safe is premature.”

Expert Andrew Ng highlights various existential risks, such as the next pandemic, climate change, and the threat of massive depopulation, even mentioning the possibility of another asteroid impact. He believes that AI will play a crucial role in addressing these challenges and suggests that accelerating AI development, rather than slowing it down, is essential for the survival and thriving of humanity over the next thousand years.


On the other hand, waiting for AI to make significant advancements before taking action might be too risky. Considering potential future scenarios doesn’t necessarily imply slowing down AI development.

Yuval Harari, an Israeli historian, argues that AI and AGI have the ability to “hack” humanity’s operating system, which is natural language. As humans engage in emotional relationships and discussions with AI agents, these systems gain insights into our behavior and become more proficient in language and argumentation.

In a previous post, I discussed embodied artificial intelligence in the metaverse, leading me to believe that the intimacy we feel when conversing with AI chatbots will only intensify. Harari asserts that AI doesn’t require sentience or a Terminator-like physical form to become highly dangerous and manipulative. While this may hold true, having an avatar representation, whether it’s 2D, 3D, or physical, could make AI even more influential and raise ethical concerns.

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