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A Third Way for AI: Cognitively-Augmented Animals?

Not everyone believes that AI is God’s gift to humans. Two noted gurus Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk beg to disagree. Musk is trying to stop what he believes is a lemming-like rush to fall over the cliff (Elon Musk’s Billion-Dollar Crusade to Stop the A.I. Apocalypse) and Hawking thinks that AI will kill the human species). Well now the issue is settled once and for all, right?

Well, seriously, for a moment. Maybe AI will kill us and maybe it won’t. But is there another way we haven’t been thinking about yet? Could we add AI to animals so that they take on some or all, maybe even more, of human cognitive capabilities? I call it Augmented Animals or AIA (for Augmented Intelligence-Animals). Let’s call it the AI Third Way for short. The First Way is artificial AI. The Second Way is humans augmented by AI, as below.

That would include (but not be limited to) neural implants. Ironically Musk is planning to start a company that will merge the human brain with AI (Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI) so the Third Way maybe is a safer way to tame AI.

BTW Musk’s Neuralink (if it happens, which it probably will given his record) is not really a full AI Second Way. That’s because you can also augment human cognitive capabilities in other ways, as I set out for augmented animals, below. So Musk is up to the AI 1.5th Way.  Need to get these right, y’know.

There are other possible ways to achieve the AI Third Way. Genetic engineering a la CRISPR or other new gene editing techniques. Drugs, maybe psychedelic drugs such as LSD which could elevate an animal into a higher state of consciousness. A combination of all of the above. If Musk can do it with humans, someone else is capable of doing it with animals.

Si why AIA anyway? What’s the advantage of augmented animals over the vastly superior (?) Homo Sapiens? For a start maybe animals are safer. If they're pets presumably they start with some affection and trust for us humans (although there no telling how they will view us once they get smarter). So they won’t smash us to pulp like real aliens justifiably would and even terrestrially-developed AI which got too big for its metal boots.

And wouldn’t it be neat to be able to have a dog’s smelling power and insights? A cat’s night vision? An insect’s ability to perceive predators? The AI Third Way could allow us to sense the world as animals see it. What insights and inventions would we get from that? Maybe we could find out if animals are really conscious, and in the process discover what human consciousness really is?

The AI Third Way is probably going to emerge sooner or later and my bet it’s going to emerge sooner with animals than with humans. Who will use this immediately? The Defense department perhaps? The militaries of some other nations who might not possess the bounded ethical capabilities of our own military and intelligence about using animals some other more questionable way?

Corporations natch. How about AIA as caregivers for patients with dementia? Fruit-pickers so we don’t need economic migrants? Helpers for the disabled? That might help a little right? You get the idea. This could have economic legs!

Maybe animals are going to need a bit of added oomph if they’re going to participate in human society. Connecticut has just allowed judges to appoint court-appointed lawyers to represent dogs and cats in court in cases of abuse, cruelty and neglect. That’s worth a blog post just by itself.

Now your cat can sue you for the lousy el cheapo kibble you’ve been feeding it. Could we be heading in the direction where we expect animals to defend themselves in court? To become plaintiffs in their own right? Could we get the first animal rights charter developed by animals themselves rather than humans?

Arguably AI augmented animals could be a safer route for us humans and a new existential path for animals so affected (or afflicted). Could we create a new species of intelligent animals so we undo the grievous harm we’ve done them so far in our Earthly career?

Maybe augmented animals could even befriend all those lonely robots who are soon going to be out there, just looking for a little love, and some trusting pets (AIA and us) to share their lives with….

 

 

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

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