Prepare for arrival: Tech pioneer warns of alien invasion


Some experts predict it will get here within 30 years, while others insist it will arrive far sooner. Nobody knows what it will look like, but it will share two key traits with us humans – it will be intelligent and self-aware.

No, this alien will not come from a distant planet – it will be born right here on Earth, hatched in a research lab at a major university or large corporation. I am referring to the first artificial general intelligence (AGI) that reaches (or exceeds) human-level cognition.

As I write these words, billions are being spent to bring this alien to life, as it would be viewed as one of the greatest technological achievements in human history. But unlike our other inventions, this one will have a mind of its own, literally. And if it behaves like every other intelligent species we know, it will put its own self-interests first, working to maximize its prospects for survival.

AI in our own image

Should we fear a superior intelligence driven by its own goals, values and self-interests? Many people reject this question, believing we will build AI systems in our own image, ensuring they think, feel and behave just like we do. This is extremely unlikely to be the case.

Artificial minds will not be created by writing software with carefully crafted rules that make them think like us. Instead engineers feed massive datasets into simple algorithms that automatically adjust their own parameters, making millions upon millions of tiny changes to their structure until an intelligence emerges – an intelligence with inner workings that are far too complex for us to comprehend.