Can AI Make Something Greater than Itself?

Humans can't make smarter humans, but we can make cognitive tools to help other humans. Computers do make faster computers without human intervention, but is that the same as an AI making a smarter AI?

Folksonomies: technology intelligence civilization ai

The Ultraintelligent Machine will be Civilization's Last Invention

The survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultraintelligent machine.

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a. machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an "intelligence explosion," and the intelligence of man would be left fa.r behind see for example refs. [22], [34], [ 44]). Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control. It is curious that this point is made so seldom outside of science fiction. It is sometimes worthwhile to take science fiction seriously.


Folksonomies: technology intelligence ai cognitive tools


Recursive Self-Improvement in Human Civilization

Let’s consider Arabic numerals as compared with Roman numerals. With a positional notation system, such as the one created by Arabic numerals, it’s easier to perform multiplication and division; if you’re competing in a multiplication contest, Arabic numerals provide you with an advantage. But I wouldn’t say that someone using Arabic numerals is smarter than someone using Roman numerals. By analogy, if you’re trying to tighten a bolt and use a wrench, you’ll do better than someone who has a pair of pliers, but it wouldn’t be fair to say you’re stronger. You have a tool that offers you greater mechanical advantage; it’s only when we give your competitor the same tool that we can fairly judge who is stronger. Cognitive tools such as Arabic numerals offer a similar advantage; if we want to compare individuals’ intelligence, they have to be equipped with the same tools.

Simple tools make it possible to create complex ones; this is just as true for cognitive tools as it is for physical ones. Humanity has developed thousands of such tools throughout history, ranging from double-entry bookkeeping to the Cartesian coördinate system. So, even though we aren’t more intelligent than we used to be, we have at our disposal a wider range of cognitive tools, which, in turn, enable us to invent even more powerful tools.

This is how recursive self-improvement takes place—not at the level of individuals but at the level of human civilization as a whole. I wouldn’t say that Isaac Newton made himself more intelligent when he invented calculus; he must have been mighty intelligent in order to invent it in the first place. Calculus enabled him to solve certain problems that he couldn’t solve before, but he was not the biggest beneficiary of his invention—the rest of humanity was. Those who came after Newton benefitted from calculus in two ways: in the short term, they could solve problems that they couldn’t solve before; in the long term, they could build on Newton’s work and devise other, even more powerful mathematical techniques.


Folksonomies: technology intelligence ai cognitive tools