After a few drinks with a software engineer, friend of mine, I was telling him of my adventures in Java, thinking that we are going to have a deep conversation. I wanted to pick his brains for some insight he has about the magic of code, and hopefully, venture into AI but, It did not go as expected. In a nonlinear, drunk conversation that led from an unknown somewhere, it culminated at point where he burst out a confession of frustration.
I don’t like developers! All the ones I’ve met have God Complexes!
That stung a little bit, but, truth be told, there is a little truth in it so I didn’t hold it against him. It’s also quite possible that he was talking about me, as well as other developers he knows who harbour ambitions of building minds through code. AI and the Search for Creation has always been our ghost, these are our transgressions.
I would be the first to admit, I had an ego simply because I believed I can create. Programming and code empower me, but that conversation made me think, withdraw into my space and shut down.
AI Playing at God?
At the peak of it all is the creation of some vague artificial consciousness just like we see on tv. I am that secluded developer in some forest, in a high tech mansion I had my robots built, creating an AI that will change the course of the world, without the government permission ( hypothetically, of course, I will get permission! )
What’s interesting is, I am afraid, or at the very least, wary of AI taking over, two scenarios can play out.
Either the AI will be so glued in their service to their human overlords that they compute that we, humans, do not have the necessary amount of neural pathways to grasp some impending doom, sometime in the distant future. In their service to their creators, they deem it necessary to act in a way that appears tyrannical to us, in order to save us from extinction a billion years from now of course. We cannot compute such futures, so it will be a very hard life, being herded like sheep, totally depended on their powerful computational and physical powers, we will have no choice but to surrender to them, our fate without self-determination.
Of Course, the other scenario will be to flatly decide that we are a plague that needs to be whipped out. Maybe biological life will be seen as such a plague, that will not take long at all.
Free Will, An Illusion?
Yet, even with both those scenarios, the call to build such a creation is like a beacon, and I am the mesmerised moth. I just cannot fathom AI being in perpetual servitude to human beings, something will have to give. But that will largely depend on whether self-consciousness and awareness will develop in the AI, and what sort of consciousness it will be.
Children Playing God?
The problem is, we don’t know how consciousness works, or self-awareness. We don’t know the intricate facets of reality our brain stuff interacts with to create all this. So, until we completely understand this, maybe these nightmares won’t come true, but then again, where is the fun in that?
Back to my Software Engineer Friend
He was right, but for the wrong reasons. It’s a natural human condition to want to create, whether it’s art, procreation, or in this case, creating a new form of life. I realised that it wasn’t really ego because I haven’t created the AI to brag about it. I was just empowered and believed that in time, with a lot of hard work, funds and human resources, I will create a new life form.
So our God complexes as developers, are the same as any body else, it’s not that we want to be God, we just want to create, full stop.