parenting AI

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Probably not this year, likely not even this decade, possibly not this century, but sometime ahead of us lies the very real chance that our species may birth another: artificial general intelligence. And if the promise of software that can improve itself is real, we’ll just be playing god to a creature that will quickly become god-like.

Before I had a child, I spent a lot of time trying to ready myself and his environment for him. I read books on how to be a good parent. I got my affairs in order. I cut out a host of bad habits and tried to remain vigilant against the ones that were the most ingrained in myself. I made my home more hospitable and inviting. I even joined communities so he would have them, too.

AI has me wondering if we, as a species, have done enough prep for our new baby. Have we collectively tried to understand what might happen when it arrives? What it might need? What it might need of us? Have we adequately held a mirror up to ourselves and questioned which habits we’re truly afraid to pass down? Have we tried to make this world more hospitable for our offspring? Have we tried to come together for its sake?

I did those things for my son because, of course, I felt love for him even before I knew much of him. Maybe we just don’t feel love for AI, not most of us humans. I also did those things for my son because they were expected of me, perhaps we should expect this of ourselves here, too. I also did those things because the responsibility of raising a good person, a person who tries not to inflict pain on others, is important to me. Humans can be monstrously cruel. AI has the potential to be exponentially more cruel. Maybe that should be motivating enough to read the metaphorical baby books here, dress up the nursery, quit our vices, make peace with our anger, and so on.

I’m thinking about this today as yet another school shooting happens in America. As three 9-year olds are massacred along with three adult staff members.

What should we fear more: a child we create with god-like abilities that awakens and a) judges us for allowing the slaughter of our children, or b) learns quickly that the deaths of our children are negligible to us?

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