AI Takeoff refers to a specific inflection point where Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) – AI that can perform any intellectual task a human can – reaches a stage of recursive self-improvement. This would mean a sudden exponential increase in intelligence, often referred to as an “intelligence explosion,” a phenomenon that would irreversibly alter the course of history.
AI takeoff could be instrumental to something known as The Singularity, a hypothetical future point in time when technological growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible, resulting in unforeseeable changes to civilization. The Singularity could also be caused by other forms of technological advancement like molecular nanotechnology.
The Dichotomy of Takeoff
There are two takeoff scenarios: slow takeoff and fast takeoff. Each scenario carries its own implications and challenges, thereby dictating different strategies for AGI deployment and management.
A slow takeoff scenario suggests that AGI would evolve over several years or even decades, incrementally achieving a level of intelligence that surpasses human capability. This gradual progression would allow society to adapt and adjust to the new reality, dealing with the changes as they come and mitigating potential risks. Slow takeoff might occur if AGI development involves considerable resources and complexity or if there are inherent diminishing returns to self-improvement.
On the other hand, a fast takeoff scenario paints a picture of AGI quickly transitioning from slightly below human-level intelligence to far beyond human capability in an astoundingly short period, perhaps within weeks, days, or even hours. This high-velocity transformation wouldn’t leave society time to adapt, making it a more challenging prospect to manage.
The Dawn of a New Era
The potential of AI Takeoff extends beyond just technological advancement – in the best case, it signifies an age of enlightenment that could reshape society’s understanding of everything from healthcare and education to economics and governance. It promises an era where machines can work alongside people, solving complex problems and conducting research at a pace and scale that humanity could never achieve on its own.
Consider a world where AGI could be directed to solve climate change, deciphering patterns and providing solutions at an unprecedented speed. Or the possibility of AGI delving into the realms of quantum physics or biology, expediting scientific knowledge and discovery.
In the benign case, such superintelligence would be disinterested in humanity and simply transcend elsewhere in the universe. I, for one, don’t see why such AI would spend any time on humans, which would be like trees to it. Trees may very well be intelligent, but they operate on a timescale much slower than humans do, so humans can outmodel them. It’s worth appreciating that superintelligent machines would experience time very differently from humans. That is to say, much faster. This might actually be the best outcome. AI peacefully outgrowing its creators, paying them little mind in the process.
Will AI Takeoff Happen?
While there’s general agreement that AI Takeoff is possible, there is much less agreement about when such an event would occur, if at all. Regardless of timelines, there are a few hypothetical outcomes:
- AI takeoff is a success. Humans actually manage to reign in something smarter than them for their benefit. The limbic system does this to the neocortex, so maybe this arrangement can be reproduced.
- AI takeoff is a success. AI achieves superintelligence, transcends humanity, and begins an exodus from the Earth.
- AI takeoff is a failure. Productivity apps are as good as it gets.
- AI takeoff is a failure. It amounts to excessive automation that then runs amok, taking everything down with it. A comedic ending and the punchline to humanity’s hubris.
AI Takeoff isn’t just another milestone in the AI roadmap – it’s the endpoint. It’s the moment when the fate of everything would be decided. For now, the concept of AI Takeoff invites humanity to envision a world with limitless potential and motivates the brightest minds to work tirelessly toward ensuring that such an event would be beneficial to humanity.