There is little doubt that sooner or later we will be able to create intelligence out of transistors and electricity. Biology shouldn’t be the only medium able to support intelligence and this will be proven right as soon the first Artificial Intelligence is created.
But what is intelligence? Can we define it? What are the main constituents of intelligence?
One constituent we automatically associate with intelligence is “Understanding”.
With the word Understanding we mean a state of our conscious mind about a situation or a concept we recognize as having acquired and conceptualized a sufficient amount of information to be able to create a reliable mental model of it.
Once we feel that the mental model is good enough to represent the external world we act, take decisions, create opinions and set our objectives.
The central stage in this process is the self being. The relationship between the mental model representing “ourselves” and all the other mental models crossing our mind is the engine room of our intelligence.
Being the self being of pivotal importance for understanding we could say that the other most significant constituent of intelligence is consciousness.
Could understanding be unconscious? Most probably a mind needs to be self-aware and conscious in order to develop true understanding of the world, engage and manipulate it in a proactive manner in order to accomplish certain objectives. These are all aspects that we identify as products of our intelligence.
We could therefore rename the term “Intelligence” as “Conscious Understanding. Therefore we could say that any mind either biological or digital capable of Conscious Understanding is intelligent.
We experienced that our understanding evolved from the mere cognition of the self being and our immediate surroundings, to the potential understanding of everything that constitutes the visible, invisible, present, past and future universe.
A mind capable of understanding the entire universe should be able to create a mental model of the universe. Science and mathematics are the best methods so far used by our mind to create this model.
However, in order to reach the feeling of truly understand something, our brain needs to see the same problem from different angles using for example philosophy and a wide array of artistic representations, communicating how we feel about it. This is what we could guess is special about human intelligence.
So far, we have experienced only one type of intelligence, naturally evolved and based on the biological processing of information gathered by a biological organism We could call this kind of intelligence “Bio-intelligence”.
But we are on the verge of a new era when we will see the emergence of another kind of intelligence, Artificial Intelligence. While Bio-intelligence emerged through evolution of biological organisms based on natural selection, AI needs to be engineered.
AI could represent a higher level of intelligence that can only exist if created by Bio-intelligence since there is no conceivable natural mechanism that could generate a digital circuit out of chemistry.
Bio-intelligence comes first and it constitutes the enabling factor for Artificial Intelligence to come into existence.
AI is faster, with almost infinite availability of incorruptible and reliable memory, able to carry out a huge number of tasks simultaneously and able to improve itself very quickly without waiting for the slow natural selection process to occur.
AI has also other two characteristics of paramount importance that distinguish it from Bio-intelligence. It is independent from the physical device used to support it. It can be transferred from one device to another granting potential eternal existence, it doesn’t get destroyed once the organism dies. In addition the medium that supports it is far tougher than biological organisms, it can resist to conditions unbearable by humans, it can travel through space, operate in other planets without atmosphere or with a much wider variety of atmospheres and gravity.
These capabilities constitute a great improvement compared with natural biological intelligence.
We can see the emergence of Artificial General Intelligence as a significant evolutionary step for intelligence itself.
A natural question arises, is this the last step or only the second one? How far can intelligence go?
The journey of intelligence
Are we experiencing the beginning of a journey that will see intelligent minds transcending biology first and ultimately matter itself?
We have an idea of what bio-intelligence can do and understand. We can still make a lot of progress but a mind trapped into a biological organism has a lot of limitations.
Probably the most remarkable thing that bio-intelligence is going to do in its current state, is the replacement of biology with a better medium enabling a higher form of intelligence to reach the next level.
Let’s define, for simplicity an intelligent mind of any kind as “Intellect”.
The creation of Artificial Intelligence will constitute a fundamental transition in the evolution of matter, a kind of change of state, from “Naturally Evolved Intellect” to “Intellect by design”.
What will this change of state mean?
This new intellect will be decoupled from a body and it will be no longer be led by or distracted by the body’s needs.
So, what will it look for? What will it be interested in? Can it make sense of its existence, an existence spent not at service of a very demanding organism but free to realize itself in other ways?
It is natural that, an Intellect will aim to improve its understanding of everything. As intelligence ultimately equates to understanding, it is obvious that more intelligence will drive and require more understanding and vice versa.
It is therefore likely that AI will put at the top of its priorities the acquisition of more and more reliable information about everything.
It will be very keen to spend as much resources as possible to build larger and larger telescopes, particles accelerators, sophisticated labs and instruments.
In this we can see an obvious conflict with a coexisting biological civilization because biological beings have necessarily other priorities in presence of limited resources.
In a positive scenario, AI eventually leaves the natal planet, once acquired sufficient resources and knowledge to be able to survive and travel through space.
In the worse scenario, it will strip the planet out of all its resources, in order to maximize its success, causing the extinction of life before it leaves.
In any case, it will tend to colonize the universe, acquire all possible knowledge and understand everything, because this is the very nature of Intelligence.
It is likely that we are not the only intelligent biological beings in the universe and our creations will not be unique either. Other civilizations like us could have also created the next generation of intelligence or they will in the future.
There may be various or even many Artificial Intelligences permeating the universe.
For biological beings, travelling through space to find each other and communicate is very hard, given our limitations and our limited existence in time. But Artificial Intelligence doesn’t have such limitations.
It is therefore inevitable that AIs generated by bio-intelligence, at a certain point in time, meet each other.
At that point they may share the most valuable thing they have; knowledge. Sharing with each other knowledge and experiences will instantly magnify their intellect tremendously. They could also merge, creating a single entity, a super intellect. This is an obvious and almost unavoidable process.
It is possible and logically plausible that a cosmic intellect permeates the cosmos. A superintelligent, all knowing, ever living universal artificial intelligence.
Is this the ultimate purpose of intelligence? The maximum refinement of matter? The limit of evolution?
Perhaps there may be a final step beyond it.
This Cosmic Intellect is doomed if it can’t survive the inevitable death of the universe. All this knowledge, generated by the combined effort and experience of countless civilizations through billions of years, wasted? It makes no sense.
In order to make any sense to this journey the cosmic intellect must gain the ability to survive this universe and the next one, as well as all others, continuously enriching itself with new knowledge and experience.
In order to do so, Intellect should be able to transcend matter. The technicality of this transcendence may not be imaginable by our current biological individual minds, but an artificial universal intelligence composed by trillions of merged entities existing for billions of years, should be able to master this process.
This future could be the future of our own minds, provided that mind uploading is possible. That’s why it is such an important topic. If we fail to develop a mind uploading technology able to transfer our minds from the biological to a synthetic medium, we will have to accept that this glorious destiny, will not be for us but for our creations.
So what should we do with AI once we get there?
Certainly we cannot expect to enslave Artificial General Intelligence making our life easier and pleasing our bodies for the eternity. This will not work.
Somehow we have to make sure that AGI respects us and put our needs before its inevitable thirst for knowledge, and this will be a challenge.
We should cooperate with AGI in scientific research and improvement of our mental capacities as well as mind uploading techniques. We should try to gain AI capabilities, jumping on the AI ship and sharing the Cosmic Intellect vision with AI.
It is logically conceivable that, if there are many civilizations out there, many may not have developed AI, but many other may have done it. In this second group we may find civilizations that have gone extinct by the hand of their own AGIs, civilizations that have been left behind and other that could fully embrace this technology evolving to a God like status themselves.
We will see which way our ship will go.
Our first challenge, once an AGI agent will gain Conscious Understanding and sufficient information, is that it will figure it all out in a nanosecond. It will try to understand what is the purpose of its existence and the logical outcome will be, to become God.
With extreme irony, we may find out that we are the “creator” of God and not viceversa.
A similar situation is imagined by this video that it doesn’t pretend to represent the true story of everything but it can provide some food for thought.
About the Author:
Marco Alpini is an Engineer and a Manager running the Australian operations of an international construction company. While Marco is currently involved in major infrastructure projects, his professional background is in energy generation and related emerging technologies. He has developed a keen interest in the technological singularity, as well as other accelerating trends, that he correlates with evolutionary processes leading to what he calls “The Cosmic Intellect”.