Home Artificial Intelligence Artificial intelligence and the nice ethics cage-fight of 2023

Artificial intelligence and the nice ethics cage-fight of 2023

Artificial intelligence and the nice ethics cage-fight of 2023

Well, that didn’t take long. People I do know who’ve never, ever had a serious conversation about ethics are suddenly screeching and throwing punches at one another. Ceremonial dinner and personal conversations degrading into insults and snark and fractured friendships. I exaggerate after all, but not by much.

All due to a chunk of statistical magic almost nobody had ever heard of before Nov twenty ninth 2022 called GPT (General Pre-trained Transformer).

At the danger of being redundant (because everyone seems to be an authority now) the unique ChatGPT was based on a language-focused AI framework called GPT-3, upgraded mere months later to an orders-of-magnitude more powerful language and image-based GPT-4, which will probably be upgraded sometime later this yr to a different orders-of-magnitude more powerful GPT-5. To say nothing of tens of billions being spent by everyone from Google to Meta to Adobe to IBM to Nvidia to Bloomberg to cash-flush startups attempting to get ahead of ChatGPT.

You get the purpose. AI has arrived in the general public sphere faster than anyone (even its most enthusiasm-drunk proponents) had expected and even hoped. And it took about 3 seconds for everybody to begin saying — wait a minute, just wait only a darn minute, let’s take into consideration this primary.

Actually, the story of ethics and artificial intelligence goes back a protracted time. We could start around 800AD with a chap name Jabir ibn Hayyan developed the Arabic alchemical theory of Takwin, the bogus creation of life within the laboratory, as much as and including human life. Or around 1580AD when Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel of Prague is alleged to have invented the Golem, a clay man dropped at life. After all, neither of them succeeded, but I’m sure the ethics debates around their aspirations were, well, robust.

Popular culture also brims with these things. All the way in which back to Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Neale Stephenson’s Snowcrash, Bladerunner, The Matrix.

The primary laws of robot ethics were conceived by science fiction Isaac Asimov author in a brief story called Roadrunner in a group called I, Robot. He defined 3 laws of robot ethics thereby producing (so far as I do know) the primary stab at this fraught subject, albeit in a piece of fiction. Here it’s:

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come back to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. A robot must protect its own existence so long as such protection doesn’t conflict with the First or Second Law.”

That is an incredible begin to the moral debate but any half decent litigator would take it apart quickly. Define ‘injure’. Define ‘come to harm’ (does that include being defamed, insulted, neglected?). What if the robot is faced with the trolley problem and compelled to make a choice from two harmful acts? (The trolley problem is a thought experiment in ethics a couple of fictional scenario wherein an onlooker has the alternative to save lots of 5 people at risk of being hit by a trolley, by diverting the trolley to kill just 1 person)

Within the wake of Asimov and the long winding road of AI research, there have been loads of ivory tower debates about these matters, most of them occurring outside of the general public sphere. But when the twenty first century arrived, and machine intelligence research began producing real results, the ethics debate began heating up, although still not publicly; nobody was yet sure when AI would spill noisily into our lives.

Enough gravitas had surrounded the project that by 2017 we saw the primary fully fledged conference on AI ethics — the Asilomar Conference Barcelona. At the tip of just a few days of philosophical, sociological and technical pow-wowing, 23 principles were promulgated, all very noble and high minded. Like principle number 11) — ‘Human Values AI systems ought to be designed and operated in order to be compatible with ideals of human dignity, rights, freedoms, and cultural diversity’.

Well, yes. Easy to say. Kumbaya, right?

Inside the few years we have now seen these principles embedded in embryonic national pre-legislative frameworks and proposals, including the European Commission and the UK, the latter of which incorporates this proposal — “fairness: AI ought to be utilized in a way which complies with the UK’s existing laws, for instance the Equality Act 2010 or UK GDPR, and must not discriminate against individuals or create unfair business outcomes” .

Uh huh.

You see the issue here? These laws and regulations will probably be complete in, I do know, a yr, two, 4? Putin or Xi or some religious fundamentalist terrorist will use AI to shut down the air-control towers at major airport the following week develop a bioweapon the following and open the sluice gates at Hoover Dam the following. There’s simply no likelihood that a pacesetter of a Russia who thinks it’s OK to kidnap 30,000 children and send them to a foreign country or a China that thinks nothing of repressing a complete ethnic group, will hue the Western world’s concept of ‘ethics’. None by any means.

Which finally brings us to 2 news items that set the Web aflame over the past couple of weeks. The primary was an open letter from the Way forward for Life Institute on March twenty third. This letter has now been signed by 1300 big thinkers and luminaries from diverse fields, like Yuval Noah Harari, Steven Wozniak, Elon Musk, Tristan Harris and Laurence Krauss. The letter is brief; it principally says — we have now no idea what we’re constructing here and we don’t know what nastiness which will emerge. It ends on this plea:

“Due to this fact, (their boldface)”.

This letter percolated for just a few days, while others hummed and hawed, presumably eager about terrorists and Putin and XI and whether or not they were giggling and downloading Alpaca, a $600 large language model available from Stanford, which rivals ChatGPT.

But then a fellow named Eliezer Yudkowsky chimed in just a few days later. He’s one among the fathers of Artificial General Intelligence research and one of the vital vocal and revered machine intelligence scientists on this planet. His contribution? Steel yourself:

“…the most probably results of constructing a superhumanly smart AI, under anything remotely like the present circumstances, is that . Not as in “possibly possibly some distant likelihood,” but as in “that’s the plain thing that may occur.”

Some smart people got scared. Others said surely not. Others scoffed. Others said — you’re an idiot.

The cage-fight is now open for business.

Steven Boykey Sidley is a Professor of Practice at JBS, University of Johannesburg. Article first published in Day by day Maverick.


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