When scientists discovered nuclear fission in 1938, they did not anticipate that in six years two atomic bombs would be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing tens of thousands of people. When cryptocurrency was initially developed, it was designed to separate money from the state acting as decentralized, digital currency, without insidious intentions, yet the Silk Road was developed nonetheless. It operated on the “dark web” facilitating the buying and selling of drugs, child pornography, stolen credit cards, assassinations, and other illicit, criminal activities. And, when social media was developed it was designed to connect people, enable communication, and share information globally; however, cyberbullying, harassment, manipulation, propaganda, and consequent addiction and mental health concerns have arisen from the largely unregulated industry. Case in point: good, beneficial things can have terrible, unintended consequences if left unchecked.

Hypothetically, the digital revolution and the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) should be revered as the pinnacle of human evolution, and specifically, human intellect. However, despite the allure of algorithmic and mechanical perfection, driven by the intent to make human life more efficient, and the relentless march towards AI idolatry, the rise of the Auto sapiens places life, liberty, and industry at the threshold of a harrowing truth – the prospect of singularity.

Singularity envisages a future state where AI capabilities surpass that of human intellect and sparks an era of digital transformation rife with uncertainty, effectively delivering a slingshot into the future. Singularity, at its core, promises boundless potential across consumerism, industry, and general livelihood driven by AI and superintelligence to jump the S-curve of normal, human advancement and innovation. Yet, this grand promise of rapid acceleration into the future casts a very large and very dark shadow of uncertainty. With unparalleled power comes imperative responsibility, and in its future state, AI poses irreversible risks to society. 

Much of the concern about singularity arises out of two of the three conceptions of AI. Think less Alexa, or even ChatGPT, and more J.A.R.V.I.S. – Iron Man Tony Stark’s loyal and highly capable AI assistant from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Alexa or ChatGPT are largely considered Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI), whereby AI is good at a particular task at a level equal to or better than a human being. Often these tools make life easier, more efficient, or just plain fun. However, Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is AI that can perform any task that a human being can, think J.A.R.V.I.S., and Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI), i.e., full-blown singularity, an AI that can surpass anything that human beings can do, present grave cause for concern. 

The rapid advancement of any system often poses unforeseen challenges and risks to be addressed. For example, the rapid advancement of AI raises a myriad of ethical dilemmas, from issues of algorithmic bias to social manipulation, market volatility, and socioeconomic inequality. More harrowing is the prospect of superintelligent AI and singularity, capable of surpassing human comprehension, innovation, and ultimately, control. It looms ominously on the horizon, with some arguing it has already made landfall, and continues, rightly so, to summon fear of existential threats and unimaginable consequences. The digital revolution should be “an age of abundance;” however, it may produce “some chance” of “destroy[ing] humanity,” according to Elon Musk.

The age of Auto sapiens ushers a pivotal moment in the collective journey of human evolution intersected with the advancement and proliferation of emerging technology. Society must approach this crossroads with foresight and discernment, shedding biases and preconceived notions to recognize both the tremendous opportunities afforded and the potential for chaos and destruction that may ensue.

Food for thought…

In the next edition of this series, we will delve deeper into the multifaceted nature of AI, exploring its potential to shape the course of civilization and the human experience, for better or for worse. From the frontier of innovation to the ethical and moral quandaries that accompany digital transformation, join us as we continue to explore and define the next stage of human evolution, the Auto sapiens.