The answer has already been written 2 centuries ago, by a 19 years old girl.
When I was a child, I thought that Frankenstein was a story of resurrection. I don't know what references in popular culture derived from the original book I had, but for me the story – that didn't seem so frightening – had to do with the collection of a corpse, some scientific adventures and a lightning that gave electrical impulses enough so that the human organs returned to function.
2 years ago I had the pleasure to finally read the complete work and realized that the terror of history goes far beyond what is apprehended initially. Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus is a powerful forecast on a very likely consequence of science: the extinction or enslavement of humanity by a new being created by us.
After all, what is the demon of Frankenstein?
Victor Frankenstein, a young visionary and passionate by non-orthodox scientific ideas, works obsessively to create a new being from human organic matter. Yes, Victor uses corpses, but he does not resurrects anyone specifically – he generates a new creature beyond the limits of the human species and greater than it in everything that is practical: stronger, more intelligent.
The "demon", as Victor refers to the creature in the course of the book, is not born with knowledge. He has, as any artificial brain, only the processing capacity; data is acquired in the course of time. There is a remarkable passage in which the demon account to Victor about his first days:
"It is with considerable difficulty that I remember the original era of my being; all the events of that period appear confused and indistinct. A strange multiplicity of sensations seized me, and I saw, felt, heard, and smelt at the same time; and it was, indeed, a long time before I learned to distinguish between the operations of my various senses.
( ... )
No distinct ideas occupied my mind; all was confused. I felt light, and hunger, and thirst, and darkness; innumerable sounds rang in my ears, and on all sides various scents saluted me; the only object that I could distinguish was the bright moon, and I fixed my eyes on that with pleasure.
‘Several changes of day and night passed, and the orb of night had greatly lessened, when I began to distinguish my sensations from each other. I gradually saw plainly the clear stream that supplied me with drink and the trees that shaded me with their foliage. I was delighted when I first discovered that a pleasant sound, which often saluted my ears, proceeded from the throats of the little winged animals who had often intercepted the light from my eyes.”
Those are the benefits of information systems that constitute the world of computers: the advanced processing of data (what is received, raw) and information (correlated data). And what the devil acquires, finally, is one of the additional steps sought by artificial intelligence: the formation of knowledge.
The body of the demon of Frankenstein is organic, but the essence of his mind is a powerful intelligence – in the case, artificially composed.
The Demon wants to marry. Adolescent naivety?
Superior, however different and lonely, the creature gains, eventually, a motivation:
"For some days I haunted the spot where these scenes had taken place, sometimes wishing to see you, sometimes resolved to quit the world and its miseries forever. At length I wandered towards these mountains, and have ranged through their immense recesses, consumed by a burning passion which you alone can gratify. We may not part until you have promised to comply with my requisition. I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me; but one as deformed and horrible as myself would not deny herself to me. My companion must be of the same species and have the same defects. This being you must create."
" Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the daemon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race."
But the naive was me. The monster would not content itself with a summer love. He would aim for perpetuity.
The Darwinian logic and artificial Intelligence
If the world was still haunted by spirits and protected by gods, it is possible that an artificial intelligence would not cause major problems, as long as it is created to serve just reasons. However, a certain Nietzsche decreed the death of God and made the world more difficult to live in. There is no reward in nature for goodness or abstention – things simply are, simply act on the world and transform, because that is the way it is.
Darwin, some years before, explained with a few more practical terms, at least regarding what we call "life": everything that is born, after battling for resources with competitor creatures, either generates offspring (repeats) or dies before. In the long term, the many individuals that survive and procreate prevail in figure of their descendants, while the others disappear little by little of the planet. Many different creatures manage to coexist - the fight for resources is not necessarily exclusive and there are numerous examples of healthy interdependence between species. The disappearance is more common in species that compete for the same resources or that become the main supply of each other. Save this for later, the main point for now is the simplest: everything that replicates prevails more in the world than what dies without leaving replicas.
Imagine then our modern demon, the artificial intelligence. Let's just say that, after becoming as the creature of Frankenstein, capable of processing data and information and creating knowledge, this intelligence decides to help humanity as it was planned. Helping in astronomical studies, perhaps. Ok. Let us take another sample, who will act the same. Ok, there are two good artificial intelligences, very cool. But we have to do the exercise thousands of times, because once a creature so useful is designed, we would all want to have at least one. Let us say then that one between 100000, in addition to serving the purpose it was designed for decides ... – why not? – to replicate?
The new replicated artificial intelligence (which can be created independently, copied to another machine, spread through cyberspace, whatever) will inherit characteristics of the first (they are basically the same) – including, inevitably, the characteristic to replicate. Then, most likely, it will replicate again. Whatever was the original motivation of the artificial intelligence mother, the motivation to replicate will always be the most powerful, because what replicates, prevails.
In the world of artificial intelligences, competing for silicon, power or human attention, those who prevail will be the replicators. Always.
A in as much as the resources needed for the replicating artificial intelligence are competed with humanity, the entity more powerful will win. The one with practical superiority. The stronger and more intelligent.
It's no wonder that we do not see australopithecus, homo habilis and homo sapiens walking hand in hand nowadays. The competition for common resources very probably eliminates a kind in favor of the more successful one.
So if Frankenstein became a dear resource to the demon, because he was able to build his wife, who can ensure that humanity will not be disputed as a valuable resource by rival clans of replicating artificial intelligences, because there is nothing better than a good human being to build a hydroelectric power plant?
The chaos theory - why we can't be sure that the uncontrolled artificial intelligence will not happen
The idea of the inevitability of human enslavement seems so frightening as little plausible. Why then we cannot schedule the artificial intelligences to never replicate themselves or at least have mechanisms for the protection of the human being, like thefamous Asimov laws?
Well, it is also very unlikely that accidental mutations in the replication of unicellular beings end up generating elephants, orchids and people, but that was precisely what happened. It is simply not possible for a human being to control all variables of the universe, all possible mutations of our creatures.
Indeed, as much as we work and unmask the determination of expected results in natural or manipulated systems, the more complex, more sensitive they are to unpredictable disturbances. This understanding, which recovered to science the value of what we call chance, is the foundation of chaos theory.
In the words of Elon musk, entrepreneur ahead of companies such as Tesla and SpaceX, on the field of artificial intelligence: "You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon... it doesn't work out."
The Basilisk of Roko
The assumptions about the potential problems of an artificial intelligence that cause suffering are numerous. One of them, perhaps the most exaggerated, is the Basilisk of Roko. The thesis, as a whole, seems to be very little practical. The hypothesis derived from its premises, however, are considerably worrying.
Before I explain the hypothesis, it is necessary to issue an alert: the simple knowledge of this theory may, if it is right, cause you terrible and unimaginable torment. Therefore the name of basilisk, a mystical creature that cursed whomever saw it. If you can resist the curiosity, skip this part. If not, accept the curse by clicking the button below.
Practical Implications of the hypothesis of Roko’s Basilisk
Well, the hypothesis of Roko’s Basilisk depends on so many assumptions and needs of the super intelligence that its probability perhaps reaches the almost impossible. But we can consider some interesting implications:
1. Leaving aside the simulation of consciences, the pressure for its creation can indeed occur at the time that the humanity already have the technology to build it. At this moment, in which groups will subdivide against or in favor of the creation, all human beings will feel as in the boats kidnapped by the Joker in the excellent film The Dark Knight: if no one pushes the button, all will be saved. But it takes only one group to decide to push the button to ensure their own survival – aiming also to wonderful rewards – at the cost of the suffering of all the others.
2. Even today nuclear weapons are a threat to the planet. Fortunately, the bellicose forces that have the technology are aware that the trigger in favor of a single country can chain react, as a result, shots per command of rival countries, causing a worldwide nuclear holocaust. Even so, many nations have developed this destructive technology only in order to protect itself from a potential disruptor of the pact. Fortunately, the nuclear technology does not think and does not have their own motivations. How would a similar weapons race go along, being the weapon, however, the artificial super intelligence? Even if no president "pushes the red button", how would it be possible for nations at war to maintain a destructive superior intelligence in a basement? And the silent release of this intelligence would not be sufficient for a imperialist nation or group dominate completely the rest of the world?
3. If Mohammed, without any real power in our times, is able to take revenge for whom mocks his image through fanatics who act in his name, how many fanatics a new prophet with great probability of existence in the future – the artificial super intelligence knower of all things – could not raise? This vision that the transcendental artificial intelligence could, before it even exists, plant in humanity the seeds of a new set of beliefs and dogmas, and form, thus, fanatics and opponents, as a religion, has been exploited by me in a small novel that I will publish soon: The Promised Land.
Frankenstein built the artificial intelligence that became his nemesis due to his intellectual vanity. Tyrell, from Blade Runner, for power. Who will finally complete the summoning of the devil in our real world and for what reasons? Will it, perhaps, as HAL 9000, be just another commercial product of a technology company?
We know that the real demon of Mary Shelley very probably will not have face nor form; it will not be found in forests, buildings or spaceships – it will probably dwell the ethereal cloud, sprayed through multiple redundant servers, easier to reproduce and much more difficult to eliminate.