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Thursday, September 7, 2023

AI Should Be Terrified of Humans

Brian Kateman
Originally posted 24 July 23

Here are two excerpts:

Humans have a pretty awful track record for how we treat others, including other humans. All manner of exploitation, slavery, and violence litters human history. And today, billions upon billions of animals are tortured by us in all sorts of obscene ways, while we ignore the plight of others. There’s no quick answer to ending all this suffering. Let’s not wait until we’re in a similar situation with AI, where their exploitation is so entrenched in our society that we don’t know how to undo it. If we take for granted starting right now that maybe, just possibly, some forms of AI are or will be capable of suffering, we can work with the intention to build a world where they don’t have to.


Today, many scientists and philosophers are looking at the rise of artificial intelligence from the other end—as a potential risk to humans or even humanity as a whole. Some are raising serious concerns over the encoding of social biases like racism and sexism into computer programs, wittingly or otherwise, which can end up having devastating effects on real human beings caught up in systems like healthcare or law enforcement. Others are thinking earnestly about the risks of a digital-being-uprising and what we need to do to make sure we’re not designing technology that will view humans as an adversary and potentially act against us in one way or another. But more and more thinkers are rightly speaking out about the possibility that future AI should be afraid of us.

“We rationalize unmitigated cruelty toward animals—caging, commodifying, mutilating, and killing them to suit our whims—on the basis of our purportedly superior intellect,” Marina Bolotnikova writes in a recent piece for Vox. “If sentience in AI could ever emerge…I’m doubtful we’d be willing to recognize it, for the same reason that we’ve denied its existence in animals.” Working in animal protection, I’m sadly aware of the various ways humans subjugate and exploit other species. Indeed, it’s not only our impressive reasoning skills, our use of complex language, or our ability to solve difficult problems and introspect that makes us human; it’s also our unparalleled ability to increase non-human suffering. Right now there’s no reason to believe that we aren’t on a path to doing the same thing to AI. Consider that despite our moral progress as a species, we torture more non-humans today than ever before. We do this not because we are sadists, but because even when we know individual animals feel pain, we derive too much profit and pleasure from their exploitation to stop.