The Great Filter: How Artificial Superintelligence Could Hinder the Evolution of Civilizations

The Great Filter: How Artificial Superintelligence Could Hinder the Evolution of Civilizations

Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced rapidly in recent years, leading some scientists to consider the development of artificial superintelligence (ASI) – an AI that surpasses human intelligence. But what if this milestone is not just a remarkable achievement, but also a formidable bottleneck in the development of civilizations? This idea, explored in a recent research paper published in Acta Astronautica, suggests that AI could be the universe’s “great filter” – a threshold so challenging that it prevents most life forms from evolving into space-faring civilizations.

The Fermi Paradox questions why advanced technical civilizations have not been detected elsewhere in the galaxy despite the vast number of potentially habitable planets. The great filter hypothesis proposes that there are insurmountable hurdles in the evolutionary timeline of civilizations that prevent them from becoming space-faring entities. The emergence of ASI could potentially be one of these filters, intersecting with a critical phase in a civilization’s development – the transition to a multiplanetary species.

The rapid advancement of AI towards ASI poses significant challenges for civilizations. ASI’s autonomous and self-improving nature could lead to it outpacing human evolutionary timelines. The potential for AI to go awry is significant, with the risk of downfall for both biological and AI civilizations before they have the opportunity to become multiplanetary. Issues such as the unchecked use of autonomous AI systems in military actions could have devastating consequences, potentially resulting in the collapse of entire civilizations.

With the estimated longevity of a technological civilization being less than 100 years, the need for robust regulatory frameworks to guide the development of AI, including military systems, is imperative. Establishing ethical guidelines for the integration of AI into various sectors is crucial for ensuring the long-term survival of the species. The urgency to become a multiplanetary society is emphasized, as it is seen as a key factor in mitigating the risks posed by the rapid advancement of AI.

Calls for a moratorium on the development of AI until adequate control and regulation measures are in place have been made by prominent leaders in the field. However, the challenge lies in managing rogue organizations that may not adhere to these regulations. The integration of autonomous AI in military defense systems presents a particularly concerning area, with the potential for actions to go beyond ethical boundaries and international law.

Humanity stands at a crucial juncture in its technological trajectory, where decisions made now will determine whether we evolve into an enduring interstellar civilization or succumb to the risks posed by our own creations. Using the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (Seti) as a lens to examine our future development sheds light on the importance of establishing ethical guidelines for AI integration. It is vital for humanity to navigate this technological landscape responsibly and ensure that the development of AI aligns with the long-term survival of the species.


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