Superintelligence

hal9000

marvin

A superintelligence is a hypothetical entity which possesses intelligence surpassing that of any existing human being. Superintelligence may also refer to the specific form or degree of intelligence possessed by such an entity. The highest ranges of Intelligence are evaluative. The possibility of superhuman intelligence is frequently discussed in the context of artificial intelligence. Increasing natural intelligence through genetic engineering or brain-computer interfacing is a common motif in futurology and science fiction.

Collective intelligence is often regarded as a pathway to superintelligence or as an existing realization of the phenomenon. Superintelligence is defined as an ‘intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills.’ The definition does not specify the means by which superintelligence could be achieved: whether biological, technological, or some combination. Neither does it specify whether or not superintelligence requires self-consciousness or experience-driven perception.

The transhumanist movement distinguishes between ‘weak’ and ‘strong’ superintelligence. Weak superintelligence operates on the level of human brains, but much faster. Strong superintelligence operates on a superior level, as a human brain is considered qualitatively superior to a dog’s. In plain language, intellectually gifted people or savants are called superintelligent. Clever search algorithms or the Semantic Web are sometimes considered to be superintelligent. While these outstanding people or machines have an advantage over average human brains, they don’t qualify as superintelligence, as they don’t have superior abilities in cognition or creativity. The scientific community is heterogeneous, not a singular entity, and cannot be called a superintelligence.

In Transhumanism, roughly three paths to superintelligence are imagined: First, strong AI, which can learn and improve itself, could after several self-improvements achieve superintelligence. Second, biological enhancements (breeding, genetic manipulation, or medical treatments) could in several iterations induce the state of superintelligence or other superhuman traits. This is banned or at least strongly discouraged in most societies. And third, cybernetic enhancements could increase the capabilities of the human mind considerably, at least in terms of speed and memory. Technical realization of neural human–computer interfaces have begun in the field of prostethics. Real enhancements of a human brain are still unimplemented.

Philosophical, cultural, and ethical implications of superintelligence are fervidly discussed inside and outside of the transhumanist movement. There are several forms of critique on the aim to build a superintelligence. Skeptics doubt that superintelligence is possible and believe that the processes inside a brain are too complex to fully understand and simulate in a technological device. The merger of human synapses with electronic devices is considered problematic, since the first is a slow, but living organism and the second a fast, but rigid system. Other critics call it hubris to enhance humans. In particular, genetic enhancements may be outlawed as a form of eugenics. There is also fear that superintelligent beings will not benefit mankind, but lead to its demise. Another argument against enhancement is based on a fear of dependency on cybernetic implants, enhancing drugs, etc. Transhumanists argue that an enhanced avant-garde will leave behind those who refuse to upgrade. Critics argue that in conclusion the rich elite will purchase brains with higher capacity to suppress the lower social tiers. Such a process is (in a non-technology-related sense) already visible today in society: Higher social tiers achieve higher degrees of education since they can more easily afford it.

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