Thoughts on AGI

Musings on superhuman performance of AI systems and Artificial General Intelligence.

Modern Artificial Intelligence systems are reaching superhuman levels of performance and speed at very specific tasks such as recognizing objects and sounds, or playing games such as Poker and Go. The success of narrow AI systems has re-ignited the dream of building broad or general AI which can mirror human intelligence (aka Artificial General Intelligence). One of the reigning debates among futurologists today is a revival of the age-old Nature vs. Nurture debate that scientists and philosophers love:

All morality, logic and reasoning shall emerge from raw environmental signals interpreted by AGI systems that can learn about the world like human beings,” says the Connectionist or Deep Learning camp.

But what about certain innate priors and beliefs that are fundamental to us as human beings, and by extension, intelligent beings?” argues the Symbolist and Expert Systems camp.

This debate further extends into discussions about AI safety and the AI Alignment Problem. Journalists also like to add fuel to the fire: By 2030 we shall have completely self-driving cars. By 2040, AI would have discovered the cure for cancer. And by 2050, the Earth will be ruled by AGI overlords.

Photo credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
Photo credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

I have an alternate perspective that may appeal to engineers:

Let’s focus less on AGI and more on fusing human bodies and minds with modern AI’s superhuman capabilities.

Why start from ‘scratch’ and try to learn everything about the world when human beings already come with all the innate priors for the emergence of morality, logic and reasoning that we want? Why not use superhuman, task-specific learning algorithms interfaced with the biology of our body to augment and enhance the skills we have. Or to gain completely new ones!

I like to use the analogy of an internet-enabled smartphone. You have infinite memory as soon as you hold this device in your hand: you need not remember anybody’s phone number or care to commit to memory any factual knowledge about the world. You need to know how to operate the interface to look up a contact or to search for facts on the internet.

Imagine if there was no interface anymore…

Chaitanya K. Joshi
Chaitanya K. Joshi
Research Engineer