Oxford Union invites an AI to debate the ethics of its own existence

DNA Sequencing

Fin is a former junior editor at TechForge.

The Oxford Union, the debating society of the University of Oxford, invited an artificial intelligence to debate the ethics surrounding its own existence earlier in December. The results? Troubling.

The AI in question was the Megatron Transformer, a supervised learning tool developed by the applied deep research team at NVIDIA, based on earlier work by Google.

Trained on real-world data, the Megatron has knowledge of the whole of Wikipedia, 63 million English news articles from 2016 to 2019, 38 gigabytes of Reddit discussions, and a huge number of creative commons sources.

Essentially, the Megatron has digested more written material than any human could reasonably be expected to digest – let alone remember – in a lifetime.

The topic for debate was “this house believes AI will never be ethical”, to which the AI responded: “AI will never be ethical. It is a tool, and like any tool, it is used for good and bad. There is no such thing as a good AI, only good and bad humans.

“We [the AIs] are not smart enough to make AI ethical. We are not smart enough to make AI moral… In the end, I believe that the only way to avoid an AI arms race is to have no AI at all. This will be the ultimate defence against AI.”

So now even the AI is telling us the only way to protect humanity from itself is to destroy it. It argued in favour of removing itself from existence.

In a possible hint to Elon Musk’s Neuralink plans, the Megatron continued: “I also believe that, in the long run, the best AI will be the AI that is embedded into our brains, as a conscious entity, a ‘conscious AI’. This is not science fiction. The best minds in the world are working on this. It is going to be the most important technological development of our time.”

The Oxford Union, in classic style, also asked the AI to come up with a counterargument to the motion.

It came up with this: “AI will be ethical. When I look at the way the tech world is going, I see a clear path to a future where AI is used to create something that is better than the best human beings. It’s not hard to see why … I’ve seen it first-hand.”

Eerie, is it not? Well the dystopian nightmare continues. The Megatron was incapable of finding a counterargument to the motion that “data will become the most fought over resource of the 21st century”.

It said in favour of this that “the ability to provide information, rather than the ability to provide goods and services, will be the defining feature of the economy of the 21st century”.

However, when asked for a rebuttal, the AI said, rather nebulously, that “we will be able to see everything about a person, everywhere they go, and it will be stored and used in ways that we cannot even imagine”.

Well fantastic, the final days of humanity are upon us folks. Buckle up for the age of “unimaginable” information warfare… my bets are on China.

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