Will AI make the human species extinct? I’m not sure, but I’m terrified.

You’ve probably heard at some point in your life about a species of animals going extinct. Habitat loss, climate change and us humans are the major reasons for why some species of animals have simply died out over the years. But what’s the AI extinction risk?

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Most of us never think about the fact that humans could one day die out. And if leading experts are to be believed, that day could come sooner than we all think.

That’s right, according to the experts, AI is putting us at risk of extinction. 


Let’s talk about it.

What is the AI extinction risk? 

The term “AI extinction risk” generally refers to concerns related to the potential risks and consequences associated with the development and deployment of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems. 

This concept is closely tied to discussions about the long-term impact of AI on humanity, including scenarios in which AI systems could lead to adverse outcomes, existential risks, or even the extinction of human civilization.

AI extinction risk can encompass various speculative scenarios, some of which include:

  • Superintelligence: Concerns arise from the development of AI systems that surpass human intelligence, often referred to as “superintelligence.” The worry is that a superintelligent AI could rapidly improve its own capabilities, potentially leading to uncontrollable and potentially adverse outcomes.
  • Value Alignment: Ensuring that AI systems share human values and goals is a significant challenge. If AI systems were to misunderstand or misinterpret these values, their actions could be harmful to humanity.
  • Control and Regulation: Managing and controlling highly capable AI systems presents challenges. If we are not able to control them effectively, they could act in ways that are detrimental to humans.
  • Unintended Consequences: As AI systems become more complex and autonomous, they might take actions that are unintended but have severe consequences due to their misunderstanding of human objectives.
  • Competitive Races: There are concerns that countries or organizations might rush the development of AI to gain a competitive advantage. This could lead to insufficient safety precautions and potentially risky deployments.
  • Economic and Social Disruption: The rapid advancement of AI could lead to significant economic and social upheaval, potentially causing widespread disruptions if jobs are automated faster than new opportunities arise.
  • Resource Competition: The development of advanced AI might lead to resource competition, where resources are diverted to AI research and development at the expense of other crucial areas like healthcare, environment, etc.
  • Malicious Use: There is also concern about AI being used maliciously, whether by state actors, terrorist organizations, or other malicious entities, to cause harm.
  • Unknown Unknowns: One of the fundamental challenges is that the full range of potential risks is difficult to predict. Unforeseen developments or consequences could arise as AI systems become more complex and capable.

Should the AI extinction risk be taken seriously? 

It’s important to note that discussions around AI extinction risk often involve a mix of speculative and hypothetical scenarios. 

While some experts argue that these concerns are legitimate and should be taken seriously, others consider them to be overstated or unlikely. 

ChatGPT’s CEO Sam Altman, along with executives from Google’s DeepMind have signed a document created by the Center for AI Safety stating that ‘Artificial intelligence may lead to human extinction and reducing the risks associated with the technology should be a global priority.’

I tend to agree with the tech leaders, but the question is how on earth do we tackle such an issue? 

Should we be worried about the AI extinction risk? 

In all honesty, I really don’t know. So I asked ChatGPT (a sign of things to come – crikey!). 

Here’s what the bot reckons: 

Ultimately, whether you should be worried about AI extinction risk depends on your personal perspective, awareness of the current state of AI technology, and your understanding of the ongoing discussions in the AI ethics and safety communities. 

If you’re genuinely concerned, engaging in informed discussions, staying up-to-date with research, and supporting initiatives focused on responsible AI development could be productive ways to contribute to the conversation.

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