What is The Right Question?
Understanding AI’s True Purpose
“Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm — Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy
What is the Right Question?
Is there an elephant bigger than the universe? Perhaps, not. If we have to remove the word ‘perhaps’ from the answer, we need AI to go forth and explore the limits of the universe. In other words, if the state of the universe is given, we need AI to find the right question to truly understand it and by extension, to truly understand ourselves.
We, as humans use different tools to understand and grasp the true nature of reality including science and our belief systems. In the long term, AI will be a tool to bridge disparate explanations of the universe and create a unifying string theory (pun intended) that explains the true nature of reality.
’Tis The Best of Times and The Worst of Times
It is a very common belief that AI will transform a whole lot of us into luddites. AI will extract a very heavy toll on human society before it delivers on its promise — a bit like mechanization. Also, a bit like a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly. For the sake of simplicity, let's call this phenomena creative destruction.
At first, AI will assist in eliminating lower order, routine tasks and then progress to higher order tasks such as a multivariate model needed to arrive at a business or medical decision. The CEO or the doctor is now freed up from ‘crunching’ data and now has to focus on taking a decision or to focus on improving aspects of a business or in case of a doctor — more personal time to the patient. We all have a common complaint — the doctor doesn’t spend enough time with us. With the advent of AI, the quality of care will improve.
Let us now extend the argument and say AI becomes the CEO or doctor. What will the CEO or the doctor do? In that case, the CEO will be freed up to think about replicating nature or creating a business that can be in harmony with the ecology and the doctor will be freed up to study the human brain more closely thereby inching closer eliminating a lot of other diseases.
If AI takes over everything, guess what? we have more time to be friends with other people and to start asking more existential questions such as why are we here? In other words, AI will free us up ask deeper and more expansive questions.
Until AI helps us, we can explore space time, multiverses as well as the deepest recesses of the human brain.
Now, if AI transforms into Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) that is not benevolent but rather a cruel master. What then? We then are left with no option but to dig deeper into our own power —unlocking the power of human consciousness to band together and defeat such a cruel master. The answer sounds so elementary. However, it is not a surprising answer considering most science fiction e.g. Jarvis of the Iron Man franchise and SkyNet of the Terminator variety have an eerie ability to come true in the future.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is Just a Tool
AI is just a tool. It is a tool that also happens to be an exponential technology capable of reshaping our world. We may falter in using that tool which is not unlike our use of any other exponential technology e.g. cryptography and cryptocurrencies, CRISPR and genetic modification etc. We may also create a tool we cannot handle. The unfortunate reality is that the genie is out of the bottle and it is almost impossible to bring it back to the bottle.
It may not be within our generation but over centuries that we may realize that the price we paid for unleashing AI (which will be very steep and front loaded) is worthwhile.
AI is a tool that will be used to complement the human brain and to possibly surpass it. In the end, however, the true purpose of AI will be to unlock our own capabilities (as ironic as it may sound) and to take down a SkyNet if we do end up creating one. The true potential of the human brain, though is as vast as the cosmos. AI will help us use the power of our brain to envelop the cosmos — both within and inside us. In doing so, AI will help us arrive at the right question and by extension — the right answer even though we take a variety of different paths today to understand the true nature of reality.