Yawn, World Remade

What dramatic new events are in store for humanity? Here we contemplate 12 possibilities and rate their likelihood of happening by 2050. … They all have the power to forever reshape how we think about ourselves and how we live our lives.

That is the June Scientific American, which doesn’t seem to realize that one of their 12 possibilities matters far more than the rest. They assign a greater than 50% chance to advanced AI by 2050!

LIKELY: machine-selfawareness
What happens when robots start calling the shots?

Artificial-intelligence (AI) researchers have no doubt that the development of highly intelligent computers and robots that can self-replicate, teach themselves and adapt to different conditions will change the world. … Computers with adaptable and advanced hardware and software might someday become self-aware. … When machine self-awareness first occurs, it will be followed by self-improvement. … Improvements would be made in subsequent generations, which, for machines can pass in only a few hours. In other words, Wright notes, self-awareness leads to self-replication leads to better machines made without humans involved. “Personally, i’ve always been more scared of this scenario than a lot of others” in regard to the fate of humanity, he says. … Not everyone is so pessimistic. … This emergence of more intelligent AI won’t come on “like an alien invasion of machines to replace us,” agrees futurist and prominent author Ray Kurzweil. Machines, he says, will follow a path that mirrors the evolution of humans. Ultimately, however, self-aware, self-improving machines will evolve beyond humans’ ability to control or even understand them, he adds.

The other eleven possibilities:

cloning of a human (likely), extra dimensions (50-50), extraterrestrial intelligence (unlikely), nuclear exchange (unlikely), creation of life (almost certain), room-temperature superconductors (50-50), polar meltdown (likely), pacific earthquake (almost certain), fusion energy (very unlikely), asteroid collision (unlikely), deadly pandemic (50-50).

Scientific American seems unaware that the AI possibility’s expected effects far outweigh all the rest.  If accurate, this one forecast deserves vastly more attention than a 700 word comment.  If they really took it seriously, they might devote an entire issue to the subject, or perhaps even their entire future magazine.  Either they don’t really believe their >50% number, they don’t understand its enormous civilization-remaking consequences, or they (and their readers) don’t find such vast consequences several decades hence of much interest. Which is it?

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