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What If Aliens Are AI, Not Extraterrestrial? Experts Share Thoughts, Potential Risks

Dec 20, 2016 06:13 AM EST

What if man isn't the greatest intelligence in the universe? This is a question we have all been pondering upon for decades, but it may appear "aliens in space" may not hold the answer.

According to Susan Schneider from the University of Connecticut, aliens may not be the next dominant intelligent life in the universe. In fact, we have been "cultivating" our descendants all along.

In her piece for the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET), artificial intelligence has been prevalent in a lot of forms of life on Earth. Go, chess and even Jeopardy are being conquered by AI "champions." And soon, the development of AI intelligence may proceed towards artificial general intelligence, an intelligence that like our own can combine insights from different topic areas and display flexibility and common sense.

It wouldn't be too far before we proceed to superintelligent AI, which is smarter than us in every aspect, even in human "domains" such as scientific reasoning and social skills.

All of us that are alive today may be clinging to the last parts of the evolutionary ladder that leads from the first living cell to synthetic intelligence.

However, Schneider said what we're experiencing today may be experienced by others in the universe. The transition from biological to synthetic intelligence may be a "general" pattern instantiated over and over throughout the cosmos. 

She added the better term to be used may be "postbiological" than just "artificial" because the difference between biological and snythetic isn't very clear. The point is, there is no reason to expect humans to be the "highest form" of intelligence when we are in fact making things smarter than ourselves.

Meaning, extraterrestrial AI could have goals that can conflict with those of biological life. And according to Science Alert, Stephen Hawking is afraid aliens may not have good intentions after all. In terms of AI, it's not in an outward manner.

According to Schneider's piece, silicon microchips are already being made as a better medium of information processing than groups of neurons in the brain. 

Although the human brain is more intelligent than a computer, machines have almost unlimited room for improvement. According to BBC, It may not long before they can be engineered to match and even exceed the intelligence of a human brain. 

AI can even be downloaded to multiple locations at once, be easily backed up and modified, and survive under conditions that we have trouble with. 

However, Schneider's point is that there is a conundrum present if all this is true. Two of the main points of these events, called the "control problem," center around the questions of what other alien civilizations may be like, and what can happen if we meet.

Ray Kurzwell has an optimistic view, saying humanity will eventually merge with the machines. Stephen Hawking said AI can rewrite its own programming and lead us to lose control over them. 

However, it's helpful to realize that this means alien AI may be more hostile than we think. Biological aliens may not have good intentions, but an extraterrestrial AI could be an even greater threat, as it may have goals that conflict with the preservation of human life.  

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