the Singularity Summit and regulation of AI

From: Bill Hibbard (
Date: Wed May 10 2006 - 06:16:41 MDT

I am concerned that the Singularity Summit will not include
any speaker advocating government regulation of intelligent
machines. The purpose of this message is not to convince you
of the need for such regulation, but just to say that the
Summit should include someone speaking in favor of it. Note
that, to be effective, regulation should be linked to a
widespread public movement like the environmental and
consumer safety movements. Intelligent weapons could be
regulated by treaties similar to those for nuclear, chemical
and biological weapons.

The obvious choice to advocate this position would be James
Hughes, and it is puzzling that he is not included among the
speakers. Can anyone explain why he is not included?

Nick Bostrom is a speaker, and it is possible that he will
advocate such regulation. However, while he has written
about the regulation of nanotechnology and biotechnology,
I not aware of anything he has written advocating regulation
of intelligent machines. He has been very clear about the
need to avoid existential threats from new technologies
including artificial intelligence, and presumably he feels
that regulation is needed to avoid these threats. I hope
he will address this issue explicitly. Machine intelligence
poses other threats to human happiness that are not
existential but should be addressed by regulation.

Ray Kurzweil has advocated regulation of biotechnology and
nanotechnology, but appears to be pessimistic about
regulation of AI. In The Singularity is Near, he writes
"But there is no purely technical strategy that is
workable in this area, because greater intelligence will
always find a way to circumvent measures that are the
product of a lesser intelligence." I think the answer is to
design AI to not want to harm humans (I think SIAI agrees
with this, although we disagree on the details). Kurzweil
also writes that AI will be "intimately embedded in our
bodies and brains" and hence "it will reflect our values
because it will be us." But the values of some humans have
led to much misery for other humans. If some humans are
radically more intelligent than others and retain all their
human competitive instincts, this could create a society
that the vast majority will not want. If they are given a
choice. Meetings like the Singularity Summit should help
educate the public about the ethical choices they face with
new technologies.

Eliezer Yudkowsky is very clear about the dangers from
artificial intelligence but is equally clear about his
contempt for any regulation. Rather, it appears that his
SIAI organization intends to be the first to create AI,
which will be friendly and take over the world before
governments have time to react. I think this scenario is
very unlikely.

Bill McKibben wants a total prohibition of all the radical
new technolgies. Used correctly, these technologies can
give all humans much better lives, and it would be shameful
to ban them completely. It would also be politically
impossible to convince all governments to ban them. Rather
than preserving the world exactly as it is, we need to be
more specific about the values we want to preserve and
find ways to enjoy the benefits of new technologies while
preserving those values.

I have read the statements of the other speakers, included
on the Singularity Summit web site, and none of them suggest
that they will advocate regulation of intelligent machines.

Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, would be an interesting
speaker for the Singularity Summit. Not as a religous
leader, but as an ethical leader. He is very interested in
new technologies and spoke to the Society for Neuroscience
on 12 November 2005. On that same day he wrote, in an op-ed
in the New York Times:

  "It is all too evident that our moral thinking simply
  has not been able to keep pace with the speed of
  scientific advancement. Yet the ramifications of this
  progress are such that it is no longer adequate to say
  that the choice of what to do with this knowledge
  should be left in the hands of individuals."

If you are uneasy about listening to a religous leader,
consider that in the same op-ed he also wrote:

  "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong,
  then Buddhism will have to change."

The Singularity Summit should include all points of
view, including advocates for regulation of intelligent
machines. It will weaken the Summit to exclude this
point of view.

A copy of this message and other writings about the
singularity are available at:

Bill Hibbard

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