What does it mean to be human? What happens when artificial intelligence (AI) far surpasses human intelligence?
These are but some of the questions Max Tegmark seeks to discuss and answer in the compelling, accessible yet intellectually rigorous “Life 3.0”. Woven within this irresistible narrative are rich scenarios depicting future possibilities engendered by Life 3.0, a stage of being at which life can dictate its intellectual and physical design through the use of technology. Tegmark is careful in imbuing his text with as much marvel as he does nuance. He does not push for an agenda; rather, he offers a wide range of possibilities that could arise from the promises and pitfalls of the AI revolution, ranging from utopian to the most dystopian of scenarios. This allows the book to function as a genuine deep dive into the world of AI, and the real-world political, philosophical and economic considerations that come with it, whilst dispelling the typical science fiction, fear-mongering myths that have become synonymous with the AI genre.
These myths that are proliferated by news outlets and entertainment alike, whilst not entirely rooted in falsehood, are completely counter-productive and damaging. When the conversation primarily centres around evil terminator-style semi-sentient robot machines, the focus of the AI debate is diverted away from the actual dilemmas posed by super intelligent AI, like its potential infringement of our privacy and identity through extreme surveillance. In the road ahead, it is imperative for the public and lawmakers alike to educate themselves on Machine Learning, AI, neural networks and the like. As we enter Life 3.0, competent, technologically literate leaders are needed to create the very laws governing the use of AI. The very laws that prevent the exploitation and weaponization of such a powerful tool. Open, honest conversations are necessary in order to regulate this field, but there can be no conversation without the possession of a deep, nuanced understanding of this domain. To do otherwise would be calamitous, as scientific ignorance and buffoonery demolish the fragile correspondence between politics, technology and society.
Tegmark also speaks on the inevitability of superhuman AI, and discuses in depth through captivating scenarios the ways in which this could manifest. These visions of the future, haunting or fascinating as they may be, serve as a stern reminder that the future and what we make of it is very much in our hands. It is especially poignant for us, as Un-interns, innovaterns, dreamers… or whatever we choose to label ourselves as. We are the future leaders, engineers, fashion designers and innovators. We are the ones who get to decide how AI is used, and whether we wish to, as Tegmark puts it “create societies that flourish like never before… or a Kafkaesque global surveillance state so powerful that it could never be toppled”. We need to start considering which outcome we desire and figure out how to steer humanity towards that goal, because “if we don’t know what we want, we’re unlikely to get it.”
Riveting and thought-provoking, Tegmark’s “Life 3.0” is a fantastic introduction to AI and its implications for humankind. It inspires the reader to develop a deep, nuanced understanding of AI and the dilemmas it encompasses, and provides an impetus for action, both of which are crucial in galvanizing the next generation of engineers, politicians and innovators alike.