In about a decade

Having recently finished reading Other Minds (good book), I’ve embarked on a book called Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, by Nick Bostrom. As you’d guess from the title, it’s about what to do in the increasingly likely event that we create an AI that is much, much smarter than we are.

I’m still at the beginning, but so far it’s utterly fascinating. Usually when I talk to people about an AI exponential intelligence explosion, the whole conversation turns into a debate over whether that’s likely to happen at all. With this author, I feel like I’m finally talking (or rather, listening) to someone who really gets it, who’s gotten past the “Will it happen?” question and is ready to talk about “What happens when it (probably) does?”

One bit in particular struck me. He has a section on games — which ones AI can beat humans at, which ones they can’t. He notes that AI now performs at superhuman levels (beating even world champions) at checkers, chess, and Scrabble, among others. Regarding the game of Go, he says the best AI is currently “very strong amateur level” but advancing steadily, and makes this prediction:

If this rate of improvement continues, [AI] might beat the world champion in about a decade.

The book was published three years ago, in 2014.

A Go-playing AI beat the world champion four months ago.

Wherever AI is headed, it’s going to be a wild ride.

4 responses to “In about a decade

  1. And apparently it’s going to get here alot sooner than those in a position to know, are predicting. I find it at once exciting and unnerving.

  2. Any other interesting predictions pop up yet? similar books must have been written for other revolutionary technologies, like the internet or electricity, I wonder how accurate those were.

    Personally, I still feel that AI (in the near term) is just another tool for Humans to use. whether they use if for good or for bad is up to us. I don’t see AI consciously (whatever that may mean XD) turning on us in my lifetime. I’m sure electricity created a similar level of excitement and hysteria, but it’s ubiquitous now, so maybe 3 generations from now, AI will be the same.

    • I think AI is fundamentally different than other technologies, because we could make an AI that’s smart enough to build a better version of itself (or make itself smarter), and that smarter AI could make an even smarter version (perhaps even faster), and so on. It’s easy to see how this could get into an exponential spike in intelligence very quickly.

      Electrical circuits, by contrast, enable better versions of themselves only in a very indirect way — by allowing us to build machines (e.g., calculators) that help us figure out how to make better circuits. And even by this circuitous (ha!) route, we can see that technology has advanced more in the past century than in the entire millennium before that. Again, exponential growth, but much slower.

      I’ll mention other interesting bits from the book as they come up (if I have time). šŸ™‚

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