A newbie’s information to the AI apocalypse: Wall-E syndrome


That is the second article in TNW’s “A beginner’s guide to the AI apocalypse” sequence highlighting the potential existential threats AI poses to humankind. Learn the primary article, “Misaligned objectives,” here

Synthetic intelligence guarantees to revolutionize each side of know-how from healthcare to area exploration. Merely put: all know-how within the yr 2020 and past is AI know-how. However, what if making every little thing higher truly makes every little thing worse?

Wall-E syndrome (not an actual factor) describes the worry of a future dystopia inhabited by oblivious people who find themselves completely reliant on know-how to carry out even the only of duties. The thought right here is that AI-powered machines will attend our each must such a level that we turn into extra like cows being herded than people dwelling freely.

This clip from the film Wall-E demonstrates what this might seem like:

You don’t must look very far to search out proof that lends credence to this prophesy. What number of cellphone numbers are you aware by coronary heart? Are you able to bear in mind all of your appointments in case you’re someplace with out entry to a display? How would you go about discovering out, for instance, who the director of cinematography was for the primary Noticed movie?

With out our present AI – Google Search and Amazon Alexa, and so forth – we’d begin to really feel just a little unwise or uneducated. “Google it” has eternally modified our society. However does that imply we’re on the trail to everlasting stupidity and laziness?


Some experts posit that when we’re free of the burden of creating new know-how to take care of our challenges, our species will intellectually regress. If AI takes over the burden of fixing our issues, maybe we’ll lose our eager edge.

This idea isn’t supported by historical past, nonetheless. The proliferation of the auto didn’t put folks within the transportation business out of enterprise, it put horse-drawn buggies out of enterprise over a interval lasting practically a century. There’s a robust argument that people will all the time have issues to unravel.

We should always really feel comparatively protected in assuming that had been we to finish up in some post-apocalyptic world the place Google Search didn’t exist, just a few of us would nonetheless know how you can learn, write, and convey data. Search isn’t a crutch, it’s a instrument like fire.

Nevertheless, as we’ve seen with fireplace, AI has the potential to get uncontrolled. What occurs once we conflate “misaligned objectives” and Wall-E syndrome? What if AI will get so good at preserving us comfortable and wholesome that we completely miss the purpose of no return.

The folks within the above video from the film positive do look comfortable. If we toss apart the yucky and obvious try to make weight problems seem like the results of laziness, it’s not arduous to think about folks made wholesome by AI-guided customized diet and drugs drooling their manner via a subservient existence.

Our robotic overlords might rule us all with out killing a single particular person. In reality, if we’re daydreaming, it’s feasible {that a} competent catalog of algorithms with our whole belief might prolong our lives, eradicate our illnesses, and make manner higher TV exhibits and flicks than something on this yr’s launch calendar – all of the whereas, herding us to our eventual extinction.

Will the rise of superhuman AI result in a species-wide regression for humanity? Evolution idea tells us that it won’t. However, Charles Darwin, the daddy of evolutionary idea, didn’t always get everything right.

Perhaps going extinct via laziness and stupidity isn’t probably the most honorable manner for a species to wink out (getting smashed by an asteroid, for instance, appears far more epic), however the apocalypse remains to be the apocalypse, even when it comes with free refills.

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