If Pharaoh Had AI
If Pharaoh had artificial intelligence (AI), rather than chasing after the Israelites with his army of chariots, he would’ve sent his army of killer robots after us. They wouldn’t have drowned in the Red Sea, but they would have pursued us across the Sinai Desert. Without some Merkava IV tanks and some advanced AI of our own, we really would’ve needed another great miracle to get out of this slavery for sure.
With the start of the digital revolution in the 20th century, we have only just begun to realize the amazing progress in AI, which affects everything from drug discovery to self-driving cars and hypersonic missiles. With these powerful AI applications, there are growing concerns about its currently unconstrained power. For example, will AI at some point overcome man’s own intelligence and ability to control it? Perhaps AI could even someday take over the world, either subordinating or even destroying mankind altogether?
John von Neumann introduced the idea of the “singularity” in the early 1950s, raising concerns about the speed of technological advancement and the possibility that its uncontrollable and devastating effects might literally overtake humanity.
In 2005, futurist Ray Kurzweil said that the singularity would happen by 2045. He said that the rapid development of technology, its ability to grow exponentially, and its ability to improve itself would lead to a “superintelligence” that would be smarter than all humans. In 2014, physicist Stephen Hawking said that superintelligent AI would be the most important event in human history, but it could also kill us all.
Sure enough, we have already reached the stage where OpenAI’s ChatGPT AI has passed the famous Turing Test, where a human evaluator could not distinguish the intelligent behavior of the AI from that of a real human. In short, “we have met our enemy, and he is us.” In other words, through our own technological progress, we may already have created something “better, stronger, faster”—and highly dangerous—like the fictional Six Million Dollar (Bionic) Man in the popular 1970s television series.
Now technology gurus like Elon Musk and other experts are calling for a six month pause on AI experiments in order to evaluate the governance and social controls around what exactly we are developing here and how we can avoid a potential catastrophe.
Like all powerful advances, AI can be used for good or for bad. On one hand, AI has been instrumental in hunting down terrorists like Osama bin Laden and helping in Ukraine’s defense by precisely targeting Russian invaders. Additionally, enterprise artificial intelligence can be used for everything from supply chain management to predictive maintenance, customer engagement, and fraud detection. If you think about it for a few moments, it’s actually hard to think of anything that AI could not benefit us in.
Yet, at the same time, AI is building amazing universal knowledge bases and skills at unimaginable quantum computing speeds, and machine learning is self-improving in a way that “it will get increasingly better at making itself smarter.” This makes us wonder how long we can keep this from exploding into something that is not only beyond our wildest dreams but also beyond our ability to control.
From manufacturing to customer service to law enforcement and defense, AI could one day be in the driver’s seat while we are off sunning on some remote beach in the Caribbean. As an example, just imagine a future military in which wars are fought by autonomous drones in the air and sea and killer robots on land, led by a master AI core at the Pentagon in control of all global operations, including our triad of nuclear warheads.
In short, the message for Passover isn’t just the tremendous potential of AI for the good or even the threat it poses of becoming too powerful to control, but what happens when the bad guys (dictators, despots, and megalomaniacs), like the Pharaoh of yesteryear, are dangerously using AI to enslave the world to their vision of hate and contempt for democracy, human rights, and freedom for us all?