Self-Aware Systems

Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Humanity

On March 19, 2009, Steve Omohundro gave a talk at City College of San Francisco on “Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Humanity”. Thanks to Mathew Bailey for organizing the event and to the CCSF philosophy club for filming the talk. It’s available on YouTube in 7 parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Evolution, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Humanity

by Steve Omohundro, Ph.D.

Pdf file:

This is a remarkable time in human history! We are simultaneously in the midst of major breakthroughs in biology, neuroscience, artificial intelligence, evolutionary psychology, nanotechnology and fundamental physics. These breakthroughs are dramatically changing our understanding of ourselves and the nature of human society. In this talk we’ll look back at how we got to where we are and forward to where we’re going. Von Neumann’s analysis of rational economic behavior provides the framework for understanding biological evolution, social evolution, and artificial intelligence. Competition forced creatures to become more rational. This guided their allocation of resources, their models of the world, and the way they chose which actions to take. Cooperative interactions gave evolution a direction and caused organelles to join into eukaryotic cells, cells to join into multi-cellular organisms, and organisms to join into hives, tribes, and countries. Each new level of organization required mechanisms that fostered cooperation at lower levels. Human morality and ethics arose from the relation between the individual and the group. The pressures toward rational economic behavior also apply to technological systems. Because artificial intelligences will be able to modify themselves directly, they will self-improve toward rationality much more quickly than biological organisms. We can shape their future behavior by carefully choosing their utility functions. And by carefully designing a new social contract, we can hope to create a future that supports our most precious human values and leads to a more productive and cooperative society.