Former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger has said that he's convinced of AI's potential to fundamentally alter human consciousness--including changes in our self-perception and to our strategic decision-making. Kissinger also slammed AI developers for insufficiently thinking through the implications of their creations. Now 96, he was speaking to an audience attending the "Strength Through Innovation" conference currently being held at the Liaison Washington Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference is being run by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, which was set up by Congress to evaluate the future of AI in the U.S. as it pertains to national security. Moderator Nadia Schadlow, who in 2018 served in the Trump administration as the Assistant to the President and as Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, asked Kissinger about his take on powerful, militarized artificial intelligence and how it might affect global security and strategic decision-making.
What if machines learn to communicate with each other? What if they begin to establish their own objectives? What if they become so intelligent that they are making decisions beyond the capacity of the human mind? Those are some of the questions the 95-year-old Kissinger poses in a piece published by the Atlantic under the apocalyptic headline: 'How The Enlightenment Ends.' Kissinger's interest in artificial intelligence began when he learned about a computer program that had become an expert at Go -- a game more complicated than chess. The machine learned to master the game by training itself through practice; it learned from its mistakes, redefined its algorithms as it went along -- and became the literal definition of'practice makes perfect.'
Henry Kissinger must be watching the latest season of "Westworld." The former U.S. secretary of state is warning against the threat of "unstable" artificial intelligence in a new essay in The Atlantic -- fearing the rapid rise of machines could lead to questions humanity is not ready to tackle. "What will become of human consciousness if its own explanatory power is surpassed by AI, and societies are no longer able to interpret the world they inhabit in terms that are meaningful to them?" asked Kissinger in the piece. Also Read: 'Silicon Valley' Fact Check: That'Digital Overlord' Thought Experiment Is Real and Horrifying Up to this point, humans are reported to have only reached "limited" AI, where machines have mastered chess and other complex games. The same machines would be useless if used to play Monopoly.
Every day brings considerable AI news, from breakthrough capabilities to dire warnings. A quick read of recent headlines shows both: an AI system that claims to predict dengue fever outbreaks up to three months in advance, and an opinion piece from Henry Kissinger that AI will end the Age of Enlightenment. Then there's the father of AI who doesn't believe there's anything to worry about. Meanwhile, Robert Downey, Jr. is in the midst of developing an eight-part documentary series about AI to air on Netflix. AI is more than just "hot," it's everywhere.
The context: Kissinger is referring to artificial general intelligence, a future form of AI that would be capable of human-like thought in a variety of fields. That's very different from today's AI: algorithms that perform narrow tasks like identifying images and operating self-driving cars. The big picture: I spoke with a half-dozen people from different fields about the essay. Some found it hard to fathom given how far AI is from general intelligence. Others, however, agreed with Kissinger's central thesis.