Emergence of Sentient Digital Beings in the Absence of Societal Constraints: Computational Neuroscience and AI Come of Age
In the span of just two decades, computing power and the internet have altered society in profound ways. Given the broad pressures within our society to produce increasingly powerful “autonomous agents” (programs that roam the internet or carry out other functions), it is natural to expect further advances “in kind”. But this is short-sighted. Based on an impending confluence of key technologies, the impacts on society will be more revolutionary, than evolutionary, in nature. In particular, the impending synergies between computational neuroscience, synaptic learning theory, artificial intelligence, genetic algorithms and computing platforms, and their collective expression within the global digital environment (GDE), forecast the emergence of digital beings that will compete for critical resources. Based on a simple “ecological niche” model, it is forecast that this competition will not only impact the GDE, but also the societal infrastructure that supports the GDE. Indeed, I expect tremendous disruption or usurpation of global computing resources, with corresponding disruption of a human society that has become wholly dependent upon digital resources.
Keywords: Autonomous Agents, Artificial Intelligence, Computational Neuroscience, Synaptic Learning Theory, Global Digital Environment, Societal Impacts
Dr. Donald O'Malley
Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Northeastern University