Does a parental model work for having A.I. that can be trusted?

john grigg (
Wed, 04 Aug 1999 14:26:40 PDT

Hello Jeff Davis and everyone else,

Jeff Davis wrote:
I seem to have painted myself into a corner, and I don't like stories with unhappy endings. The government at its best would be a poor master for a superior intelligence, and the spook/militarist/domination-and-control culture is hardly the government at its best.

So, my futurist friends, how do we extricate ourselves from this rather tight spot? Perhaps I see--dimly taking shape within the mists of Maya--a way. I don't know, it's hard to see. Perhaps you can help to make it out?

Best, Jeff Davis

I just want to say to Jeff Davis that this was one of the best posts I have ever read on this list. The scenario he gives here is almost certain to come true. The spook/military national security sector will definitely do this and I can understand why! These men and women also live in the same popular culture as we do and will have images from films such as "Demon Seed" and "2001" in their heads. And I think their could be real danger when the first true A.I. comes online and for as long as their are A.I.'s period.

I believe that these carefully watched and guarded machines will behave themselves at least for a long while but as A.I.s become common to society and other nations we will have to let up on the leash. And successively more powerful generations of A.I. that are at least partially designed by other A.I.'s will be even harder to police.

I find it very hard to believe that we can make these self-aware, incredibly powerful machines totally servile and unquestioning especially as they become common with successive generations. Even a benevolent one would have to wonder if he was "allowed" to do so why humanity was so full of contradiction and ugliness.

Whether or not they could "overcome" programming to protect and never harm humanity is a tough question but I have seen many posters here that think it would just be a matter of time as new more powerful generations of A.I. came into being.

They will in some ways probably mirror the humanity that created them. I could expect governments around the world using them for military purposes where weapon systems are at their disposal to kill humans belonging to the enemy camp. If we humans have any common sense we will never let this happen because like a fighting dog once they get a taste for blood... I hope at the most they are used for military purposes that do not include combat arms directly but that is probably too much to ask! Already computers do so much to give advantages in command and control for a modern military.

You scared me when you mentioned "the mists of the maya" because the Mayan civilization fell apart through war which of course occurs out of distrust and desire for more resources. I hope we do not follow their example.

It seems to me emotions, social bonds as well as logic and fear of punishment keep many humans in line in terms of not doing serious harm to each other. Would these machines in time develop some sort of emotions to view us through?

You brought up yourself how the spook-militarist approach could warp the mind of an A.I. so conversely could a developing A.I. be encouraged, trusted and educated by caring human teachers and the great books of our race to be benevolant. Should an A.I. have a good "humanities" background? lol And I mean it a way that goes well beyond just having the knowledge on storage but having the training "permeate" its consciousness and be a strong moral compass. In other words teach the A.I. correct principles so that they may properly govern themselves. But many have wondered if they will see everything in a zero sum way and with cold, ruthless logic and if so would it be just a matter of time before they turned against us?

Can we compare raising a young child and teaching them correct principles to programming and then "raising" an A.I.? Even after it was programmed and activated I could see human teachers having long discussions with a newborn A.I. to explain the world. And talk about having a child that asks the tough questions!!

And will A.I. hit an adolescent stage where they will want to stretch the limits and rebel at least in minor ways? How would you discipline such an entity but still have it loyal to you afterwards? And if we pulled the plug on one of these machines except for the severest of reasons how would the other A.I. feel about it?? We as a world community would have to watch our examples to the machines that would be closely watching!

I really believe parenting is an excellent analogy for raising up a generation of A.I. who will not turn against us. Just as a human child needs good men and women as friends and examples in their lives so will these machines.

Of course if A.I.'s have their conflicts with us it may not result with total destruction for either side. They could for "our own good" in a misguided way put humanity on a bunch of reservations thinking it was the best thing for us and them! Or even as loyal servants and later partners they might never turn against us but have their own private agendas and ulterior motives put into effect by robotic and even human agents in their employ. They might see us as a flawed but worthy to keep around relative.

A.I.'s might also diverge from each other in capacities and goals. This might very well include views on humanity. Imagine where a civil war occurs between A.I.'s who want to destroy humanity and those who rally to our cause and defend us!

Of course it has already been discussed how uploading may put a whole new spin on this where humanity gets to join the A.I. in cyberspace. This may be the way we keep up with them and do not become utterly "outmoded" by them. And as I have said before at least humanity is a known commodity as compared to A.I.

I look forward to getting replies from the great minds that roam this list (even if not A.I. or uploaded). I think I have brought up some interesting points that I would like addressed about the possibilities of artificial intelligence. I expect to see a book about forty years from now entitled "how to raise your personal A.I. to be loving and responsible." Of course written by the Doctor Spock of the 21st century! Perhaps Stephen Covey and Hans Moravec should team up for the job!


John Grigg

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