The rise of artificial intelligence has been a subject of debate ever since OpenAI introduced its generative AI bot ChatGPT in November 2022. Everyone, from enthusiasts, experts to regulators have all been trying to understand what this unprecedented advancement of AI technology could mean for humanity. The concern is that if AI is allowed to progress without any checks and balances, a plethora of issues such as unemployment, data privacy, biases in decision-making, and more can appear. Recently, an MIT professor has tried to explain this phenomenon by comparing the rise of AI with an asteroid that is headed for the Earth.
The MIT professor in question is Max Tegmark, a physicist, cosmologist, and machine learning researcher. Due to his diverse field of knowledge, he has made an interesting comparison to illustrate how people have been looking at the rise of AI. And he has chosen the example of the popular movie Don’t Look Up to give an analogy.
In a recent column in Time, Tegmark said, “Suppose a large inbound asteroid were discovered, and we learned that half of all astronomers gave it at least 10% chance of causing human extinction, just as a similar asteroid exterminated the dinosaurs about 66 million years ago”. Indeed, that is sure to stir global panic among the entire population, right? Tegmark disagrees.
“ I now feel that we’re living the movie “Don’t look up” for another existential threat: unaligned superintelligence…A recent survey showed that half of AI researchers give AI at least 10% chance of causing human extinction,” he adds.
Are we ready for an asteroid strike (or the rise of AI)?
The movie Don’t Look Up, which is a satirical sci-fi, highlights how politics, capitalism, and people’s general bias resulted in people ignoring a gigantic asteroid that is going to strike the Earth and cause extinction for all humans.
Drawing a parallel, Tegmark notes that similar opinions are being thrown around when it comes to the rise of AI. For instance, some companies believe that superintelligence in AI is impossible and what they are building towards is AGI (artificial general intelligence) which can perform most intellectual tasks that humans can. He calls it AI denial.
He highlights another similar example where some groups have been noted to say that AI superintelligence will not be here for a long time. Tegmark disagrees and says with the unprecedented speed AI is progressing, it is not a long-term issue but a short-term one. Just like we are preparing for asteroid strikes with DART missions and the likes thereof, AI issues can also not be left alone right now.
Giving many similar examples, Tegmark reiterates that the issues of AI have to be solved today in order to ensure that tomorrow, it will not lead to the destruction of humanity itself.