With the expected emergence of superintelligent entities within the next few decades, questions abound from experts and laypersons alike regarding what function they’ll serve. And, importantly, whether they will they lead to our ruin or to take us to utopia.
The emergence of superintelligent entities represents a set of challenges on the same scale as climate change — but it’s likely on an even faster timeline than climate change.
Few would argue that the current state of affairs in the world has dire undertones for humanity. Over a span of 70,000 years of our developing intelligence, human imperfections and misaligned incentives have damaged the natural world and disenfranchised multitudes of people. We find ourselves deeply entrenched in economies, financial markets, and food and health systems that are out of harmony with the natural systems that sustain life. Is it possible that we need the objective and far-reaching capacity of superintelligent entities to right our course?
Technology, in some cases, is leading to hopeful new developments that promise to subvert some of the damaging policies impacting our lives. The rise of social media in challenging corrupt or repressive governments is one such development. Blockchain technology is still another development that offers hope for humanity.
Blockchain is the technology that undergirds cryptocurrency. It’s essentially a digital, decentralized ledger that removes any middleman — as in a bank. New economics research demonstrates that blockchain has the potential to reduce the cost of nearly every transaction on the planet and facilitate the inclusion of the unbanked into the world marketplace.
How could blockchain technology have anything to do with the expected arrival and shaping of superintelligent entities — which I’ve dubbed Super-Aware/Intelligent Machines (SAIMs) to describe the complex, thinking and uber-aware qualities envisioned in these machines.
Consider these possibilities:
1. They can drive better resource allocation decisions. Blockchains have steered people en masse to less exploitive, more equitable, much less costly services. Similarly, SAIMs will guide more verifiable, impactful decisions and actions. With an assumed capacity for unlimited computational abilities, SAIMs can remove inherent biases or misaligned incentives, and instead apportion shifts in resources that increase the likelihood of wholly positive solutions — from transportation to energy to medical advancements.
2. They reflect a “supersystemic” approach. Blockchains employ a supersystemic strategy, which has the potential to solve a myriad of interconnected social problems. Blockchains can seed new economic models that remove historic barriers to economic development and allow the formation of diverse, crowd-powered economics systems that better reflect humanity’s varied needs. In the same way, SAIMs will be able to process and assign a value to data. Using their capacity for comprehensive data analysis, they could point to solutions and incentivize the marginalized to supplant systems that, because of inherent institutionalized selfishness, serve the few — not the masses.
3. They will disrupt entrenched patterns of ideas and behaviors. The potential for blockchain technology is vast, and we have only begun to envision its application. It could weave together systems through mechanisms on increasingly powerful hardware — helping to give rise to SAIMs. With super-awareness giving SAIMs a comprehensive view of the world, and superintelligence facilitating comprehensive data analysis, SAIMs will have the capacity to calculate the potential cascading repercussions of thousands upon thousands of ideas and ideologies — from religious to consumerist to nationalist — across billions of individuals. I expect they’ll seek patterns in data collected from social media, sensors and listening devices, and statistical tools. With these, they may establish expected cause-and-effect relationships between individual ideas or ideologies and human activities. This could identify inflection points when a given segment of humanity might be ready to accept and actively spread a given idea. The hope is that these new ideologies are for the betterment of humanity and our planet — not the demise.
Blockchains are not only a key catalyst that will facilitate the emergence of superintelligent machines, but also a tool those machines will use to collaborate with humanity.