In Brief
Pooling our intellectual resources is how humanity will keep ahead of purely artificial intelligences. Here's why we need to do it.

Note: This is part two. Read part one here

There are many who say we can put controls in place that keep A.I. from becoming dangerous, but they’ve missed the fact that these technologies are already dangerous. Humans have already faced a strategic opponent that understands us better than we understand it, AlphaGo, which shocked the A.I. community by beating a human Go Master in 4 out of 5 games.

The only thing we’re now waiting to happen is for programmers to apply these technologies to disciplines that are more significant to our lives than board games.  This will occur, and the raw power of these technologies will steadily advance, putting us at a greater and greater disadvantage.  It seems we’re destined to be out-matched, and not just on the Go board, but in countless strategic situations.  So what can we do?

Keeping Up With A.I.

My view is that we humans need to stay one step ahead in the intelligence arms-race.  There are various technologies being explored to make us smarter, ranging from gene therapy to supercharge our minds, to implanted chips that augment our brains.  Personally I prefer less invasive methods.

If we look to Mother Nature, countless other species have faced challenges during their evolutionary development where survival required a boost in intelligence beyond the abilities of their individual brains.  Those species developed method to amplify their intelligence by “thinking together,” forming systems that tap their combined knowledge, experience, insights, and instincts.  Biologists have many names for such systems – flocks, schools, swarms, and shoals, but the principle itself is generally referred to as Collective Intelligence or more specifically as Swarm Intelligence.

It goes back to the birds and bees – when a social species needs to make more intelligent decisions than an individual member can do alone, they generally evolve the ability to think together in closed-loop systems.  The most studied example of this is honeybees.

Every spring honeybees face a life-or-death decision to select a new home location for the colony. From hollow trees to abandoned sheds, the colony considers dozens of sites over a 30 square mile area, evaluating each across dozens of competing criteria.  Does it have sufficient ventilation?  Is it safe from predators?  Is it large enough to store honey for winter?  It’s a complex problem with many tradeoffs and yet by thinking together as a swarm, the bees arrive at optimal decisions 80% of the time.

Thus, although individual bees lack the capacity to make decisions that are this complex and nuanced, when hundreds of bees pool their knowledge and experience, they evoke a collective intelligence that is not only able to reach a decision, it finds an optimal solution.  It is this emergent amplification of intelligence that could help us humans stay ahead of machines.  And it turns out, new technologies make it is possible for humans to “swarm” in online groups and as recent research shows, it makes us smarter.

Yes, I’m talking about the dreaded hive mind, and for a long time I was deeply against it.

But over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that pooling our intellectual resources in systems may be our best approach to keeping humanity ahead of purely artificial intelligences.  After all, a hive mind is comprised of living, breathing, people, instilled with human values and emotions, and is motivated to keep human interests at the forefront.  A purely artificial intelligence has no reason to share our core values or make decisions that support our interests.  And already, purely digital A.I. systems can out-play us, and it will only get worse.

Thus, a “hive mind” is one approach by which we humans may be able to ‘up our game’ and stay competitive.  Hopefully we can find other approaches too.  But one thing is clear – we cannot ignore the dangers of A.I. any longer.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Louis Rosenberg, PhD is founder and CEO of Unanimous A.I., a company building intelligent technologies that keep humans in the loop.  Previously, Rosenberg was a tenured professor at California State University (Cal Poly).  He holds a BS, MS, and PhD. from Stanford University.  His doctoral work focused on virtual reality, augmented reality, and robotics.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Futurism or its affiliates.