Can SkyNet Be Altruistic?

So, yeah, according to the BBC, a bunch of fat cats just pledged $1bn to a non-profit venture given the goal of developing artificial intelligence (AI) with the purpose of benefitting humanity. The charitable, uninterested souls behind this spontaneous initiative are Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Jeff Bezos (through Amazon), and Infosys.

The issue will surely not fail to do some sort of splash, mostly because for the past 3 or 4 years the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill gates and Musk himself have been publicly fear-mongering the masses about how SkyNet will screw us all. Now, I am not saying that people should believe that or not. Frankly, it is impossible to actually worry about such things unless you’re white and live in the West, because when life's pressing worries are to feed the children and pay the mortgage, it is outright superhuman to actually feel nervous at the thought of Terminator destroying humanity. What I am saying, though, is that it is impossible not to feel suspicious about this type of altruistic shit.

You see, in the opening statement of the aforementioned organization, i.e. OpenAI, they claim that their aim is “to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” And it is when these sort of value judgements are made that it is inevitable to become suspicious. Who the hell gets to say what benefits humanity? Does it benefit humanity that everybody has a smartphone and a car? Is it about having one’s own droid feeding you Doritos 24/7 so everybody can get pleasantly fat —though with an Apple Watch shoved up the rear, you know, for the heart monitoring and stuff? Isn’t it most beneficial to just live naturally without machines? I mean, I don’t know. I have my own opinion, but, I am not the one couching up $1bn. So, it doesn’t matter much what you or I think. What matters is what the ones holding the controls think… and it can be quite scary. Also, I wonder, who will own the IPRs of their research?

Think about Amazon for a second, one of the juggernauts behind the initiative. With their horrendous record of competition maiming and employee abuse, both by proxy and directly, I am suspicious that their idea of “benefit for humanity” could very well be hordes of brainwashed couch potatoes sitting at home doing nothing more than staring at Amazon Fire TV and pushing their dash button, consuming like automated cyborgs; all while the Amazon drones deliver unnecessary stuff procured, packaged, and readied by machines —without the hassle of having to deal with smelly, whiny, and complaining human workers, not to say those pesky unions.

Think about it. Smells like the modern, cynical view of democracy, i.e. a bunch of sheep arguing about votes for the wolf candidate or for the lion candidate. So, do we get exterminated by SkyNet or subjugated by the likes of Amazon? Gee, how enticing prospects!