There are a lot of artificial intelligences running around in The Roar of the Spheres. They act a lot like humans. There are reasons for this: for one thing, it’s fun. But realistically speaking, I think AI will end up being a lot like us.

The thing about intelligence is it always arises from a huge collection of stupid actors. I’m not talking about movies here. Schools of fish and flocks of birds don’t move in those beautifully choreographed movements because somebody at the front is bellowing at them through a bullhorn. Neighborhoods and districts in cities, for the most part, don’t arrange themselves because somebody’s planning it. Maybe the most famous misinterpretation of intelligence is that of bee hives and ant colonies: the queen is not ordering her thousands of offspring around. She makes zero decisions about the colony’s behavior. The decisions to forage, relocate, or war are all determined by the collective conclusion reached through thousands of beings laying down their individual pheromone trails.

Brains are similar. Brains are composed of neurons, each of which is capable of no action more sophisticated than saying ON or OFF, TRUE or FALSE, SALT or PEPPER. It’s the interaction of billions of these stupid actors arranged in various networks that lead to sapience. It’s kind of amazing.

Neurons are bits. They have the exact same properties as computers. If you want to create an AI, I don’t think you look to high-level, individually powerful processors. I think you combine billions of very stupid, very simple processors that, when networked with each other, are capable of unintuitive outcomes.

That’s how you build a brain. If you model a machine after our brains, you might create intelligence. If you model an intelligence after ours–with the same unpredictable, bottom-up networks–you’re going to have beings capable of emotion and irrationality.

In other words, if we design AI in our own image, based on billions of stupid actors acting in concert, I don’t think they’ll be the logic-machines we often imagine, incapable of feelings, inhumanely rational. They might end up an awful lot like us.

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