PARIS — For a long time, artificial intelligence was little more than science fiction — now it's now just a matter of time until it becomes reality. The boom of computing capabilities have seen the power of servers multiplied a billion times over in the span of just 31 years, making it likely that an artificial intelligence superior to our own will emerge in the coming decades.
The GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) Internet giants, as well as IBM, have all been investing massively in the field. Leading the pack is Google, whose chief engineer Ray Kurzweil believes that a self-aware AI a billion times more powerful than all of the human brains on the planet will crush human intelligence as early as 2045. "We will make machines that can reason, think and make things better than we do," adds Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders.
This is a disturbing prospect. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, says "artificial intelligence is potentially more dangerous" than nuclear weapons. To compete with robots, Google proposes transhumanism, i.e. turning humans into cyborgs.
Kurzweil predicts that, by 2035, we'll have nanobots implanted into our brains and connected to our neurons to "upgrade" both our mental and physical capabilities. The point will be to prevent us from being (too) inferior to machines and thus protect us from being turned into their slaves, in a Matrix-like scenario. Upgrading technologies will be the only way to maintain a certain autonomy. Paradoxically, the ultimate tool to avoid the human race's vassalization would also be the instrument of its suicide. The human-AI hybrid would indeed mean the death knell for the 1.0 biological human.
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"Cyborg activist" Neil Harbisson — Photo: Dan Wilton/The Red Bulletin
Artificial intelligence could cause another significant casualty: money. In our meritocratic societies, the difference in intellectual abilities are, rightly or wrongly, the primary reason for the wage and capital gap. But AI would break this very notion. Eventually, human intelligence will be ridiculous compared to that of machines. So the question is, in such a world will we accept that some people earn 1,000 times more than others? If we accept Google's brain nanobots, what will be the legitimacy of any revenue gap between people, since our performances will be linked to the power of our brain aids, and not to our inherent qualities?
Besides, a society driven by artificial intelligence will be a society without work, which will render the mere function of money useless. If we're able to emulate a billion cancer scientists on an array of hard drives in a few seconds, what will be the value of a human oncologist?
All goods and services will be created and produced by machines in an infinitely more efficient way that any human being can, even an upgraded one. The meritocratic system will go up in smoke.
And how to organize the distribution of capital if merit is impossible? The best solution will without a doubt be the equal redistribution of goods and services among individuals, a communism 2.0 of sorts in which everybody will be provided for according to their needs and not according to their work. It will be artificial intelligence — not economists like Thomas Piketty — that puts and end to the wage gap. Capitalism simply won't survive intelligent machines.