Nature Red in Reads and Writes

Tool-use was one of the defining characteristics of Homo Sapiens. Ironically it may also be the thing that leads to our obsolescence.

In the first phase of the IT revolution, from the invention of computers up through the Web, computers worked for humans – as tools – and humans maintained the computers. The IT industry emerged to monetize and support these tools.

In the second phase, Immature Autonomous Network AI, the humans will work alongside the AIs (as trainers, admins, users, and task completers), and will also work alongside the AIs to build, modify and maintain the AIs. This is a phase where humans collaborate with their tools, and their tools are able to learn from this experience. The end result is tools that can operate themselves.

In the third phase, Mature Autonomous Network AI, the AIs can build, operate and maintain themselves, program themselves, and evolve, fully independently of human participation. Humans may be invited to participate and may still play useful roles, but the AIs won’t depend on them and can function without them if necessary. The tools have become fully independent of their makers.

It’s very unclear what happens next. Do the makers and their tools still need each other, do they get along, do they compete? Is it a world where AIs are like a new species in the ecosystem that exists in some kind of ecological balance with humans and other species?

Or does AI become an invasive species that rapidly gobbles up resources and starves or wipes out other species, resulting in a Cambrian explosion of new AI species and world dominated by AIs and robots?

As humans we take it for granted that we are the alpha predators in the food chains we inhabit. We take it for granted that we have control of sufficient natural resources to pay for our human needs – food, water, energy, minerals and ore etc.

But what if we have to compete with AIs for these same resources? AIs need energy for factories and automation, they need land to expand their footprints, they need mineral and ore, water for cooling and industrial processes, etc.

AIs don’t need cities filled with people, food or agriculture, so why not divert funds and work away from that to more productive purposes, like building giant server farms and manufacturing nanobots?

It sounds like science-fiction but we are right on the edge of these becoming real issues for society, our civilizations, and even our species.

Nature is not only red in tooth and claw, but also in reads and writes.