Our Blog
Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom

Now, imagine your computer is smarter than you.  Not a bit smarter but, say, 1000x smarter than the cleverest person who ever lived.  

What if such a computer or robot was created - could it be smart enough to think like a sentient being? Could it create stuff, cure cancer, make us all rich?  Would it be bad or good? The author, Nick Bostrom, thinks we should be considering the intended and unintended consequences of such technology now, ahead of its potential creation.  For example, the author argues that any government should take control of any company that creates such a technology given that it may prove the ultimate weapon that could not be thwarted.

Rub the lamp?

Because the book examines the theoretical boundaries of what could happen, it does wander into techno-fantasy.   For example, he lists many ways in which the superintelligence could go wrong - if it asked what you wished for and you said “pizza”, it may go away and use every atom in the universe to produce pizzas given that is your desire and there could be an infinitesimal chance that your quest for the Italian dish may not be sated until then.

The dangers of the ‘be-careful-what-you-wish-for’ syndrome arise in defining the goals for this new technology – Bostrom asks interesting questions as to whether it should be kept in a box and brought out for only very narrowly defined objectives or let it rule supreme like a sovereign with cerebral superpowers.

The problem with either is it will need a sense of natural justice and will be able to cater for human requirements for wellbeing, prosperity, creativity, aesthetics, companionship, longevity, etc. which may not be part of its objectives.

Aye, robot

Overall, I would have to give full marks for the premise of the book although some of the techno-speak and points are laboured which lets it down a bit.

AI, robotics and machine learning are all coming and coming fast.  The impact of these technologies, good or bad, are still in human hands and books such these serve to prompt the questions as to what exactly is its purpose and how can it be best applied.