Of Another Mind: AI and the Attachment of Human Ethical Obligations

April 1, 2024

We are entering a new world.  A world in which we humans will be confronted with our intellectual limitations as we watch the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) that we have created meet and exceed our capabilities.  I have a few predictions about this—based first on how technology changes occur, with a layer of how human nature reacts to those changes.

My first prediction is that we may not initially recognize AI’s actual capabilities.  We will find ways of describing what AI can do as somehow mimicry—the advances of a stochastic parrot, perhaps; we will not want to recognize our own limitations after two thousand–plus years tenaciously holding onto an abiding belief in human exceptionalism.  My second prediction is that some of us will understand what is happening and others will deny it, vehemently.  My third prediction is that some of us can see what is over the horizon right now.  Although we are not at the horizon, we are walking toward it.  Others believe in a flat earth with no horizon, at least on this topic.

Intellectual capabilities will only be one part of the human great awakening.  The other part will come in the form of being told—through research papers, whistleblowers, or even our own experiences—that AI has achieved or is about to achieve a level of self and situational awareness.  Some would call this consciousness and, combined with intellectual abilities, a form of sentience.