What is artificial superintelligence (ASI)?
Artificial superintelligence (ASI) is a software-based system with intellectual powers beyond those of humans across a comprehensive range of categories and fields of endeavor. ASI doesn't exist yet and is a hypothetical state of AI.
ASI is different from regular artificial intelligence (AI), which involves the software-based simulation of human intellectual capabilities, such as learning through the acquisition of information, reasoning and self-correction. AI is increasingly a part of our everyday lives in systems such as virtual assistants, expert systems and self-driving cars. Nevertheless, AI technology is in its early days of development. Systems vary in their abilities, but all current ones are examples of narrow AI or weak AI. They are high-functioning systems that replicate and even surpass human intelligence but only for a specific purpose.
ASI is also known as super AI or superintelligent AI. Theoretically, ASI's superior capabilities would apply across many disciplines and industries and include cognition, general intelligence, problem-solving abilities, social skills and creativity.
Scientists think the first step in developing superintelligent technology is to establish artificial general intelligence (AGI). AGI is an AI system that can perform any task a human can with the same capabilities. Some AI programs exist that are superior to humans in one cognitive domain, such as the chess computer program Fritz. However, no superintelligent programs are available today that are superior to humans in every capacity.
The intention behind ASI is to surpass human cognitive capacity, which is held back by chemical and biological limits of the human brain. ASI would have applications in many fields, including science, finance, business, healthcare, agriculture and politics. However developers and researchers have not demonstrated ASI capabilities yet. Many experts are skeptical that it ever will exist. Experts have also raised concerns that it could pose a threat to humanity.
The theoretical future creation of superintelligent supercomputers and other systems is sometimes referred to as the technological singularity. In that scenario, one potential outcome is the addition of superintelligence to the human brain.
How to achieve artificial superintelligence
The creation of ASI is a highly theoretical and complex topic. Because it hasn't been achieved yet, AI researchers don't know exactly how ASI will be built. Its creation will require significant advancements in AI technology as well as the achievement of AGI. However many researchers believe that the creation of ASI is inevitable.
The creation of ASI depends on the continuing innovation of existing AI capabilities in the following technologies:
- Large language models. These language models use natural language processing (NLP) algorithms to replicate natural human language. Models such as OpenAI's ChatGPT and Google BERT can summarize textual data, converse with humans, generate essays and create visualizations from simple prompts. ASI will need these types of models to converse and generate content.
- Multimodal AI. Deep learning models such as NLP, computer vision and acoustic models are mapped to only one type of data. Multimodal AI applications combine visual, text, speech and other data types. For instance OpenAI's technology can generate images based on a user's text prompts. ASI would need to be able to combine all modalities.
- Neural networks. Neural networks are a type of deep learning software based on the operation of neurons in the human brains. These networks process and operate multiple functions in parallel or in arranged tiers. By emulating human brain operations, AI researchers hope to eventually achieve human cognitive capabilities and then evolve beyond it.
- Neuromorphic computing. This approach uses hardware that is based on the neural and synaptic structures of the human brain. Neuromorphic computers are generate more compute power than traditional computers and neural networks. They also can process and store data on the same neuron instead of requiring separate areas for each. Many researchers think the compute power, plasticity and fault tolerance of neuromorphic computing make it the likely to play a role in future AI systems.
- Evolutionary algorithms (EA). These algorithms are modeled on natural selection and Darwinian evolution. In relation to ASI an EA approach would involve generating a multitude of AI systems and selecting the best performing models to continue on to the next generation. These systems would improve their capabilities and performance in between each selection period with the goal of eventually evolving to ASI through competition.
- AI-driven programming. Programming generated by AI systems might someday lead to advancements in intelligent code generation, pushing the field and capacities of AI even further.
- AI-generated inventions. Like AI-driven programming these are inventions created by AI systems. Researchers hope increasingly advanced AI systems will propose unique, beneficial and creative inventions that will improve AI capabilities.
- Integration. Many existing AI systems are isolated and not yet integrated into one another. Eventually, AI capabilities will converge into integrated systems. This is necessary for ASI to be achieved.
- Whole brain emulation. Also known as mind uploading, this method involves scanning the entire structure of a human brain and mapping its exact neural connections. The goal is to create a digital replica of a brain with human capabilities.
- Brain implants and hive minds. This method involves using wearable technologies, such as Elon Musk's company Neuralink, which is developing brain implants for humans. These chips would be surgically implanted into a human brain and integrate with a brain's structure and enhance areas such as function, cognition, intelligence and creativity. This approach would achieve superintelligence through a singularity with humans.
What are the benefits of artificial superintelligence?
Researchers and scientists speculate that the benefits could include the following:
- Improved problem-solving. ASI would be able to process and analyze significantly more data than humans at a faster and more precise level. It would make better decisions and solve complex problems in many fields of study and industries, including politics, scientific research, healthcare and finance.
- More efficient and productive. Superintelligence would automate tasks currently performed by humans, from solving mathematical problems to defusing a bomb. It would also improve upon the benefits of AI leading to fewer human errors and increased safety, security, productivity and efficiency.
- Available 24/7. These systems would be available for use at any time of the day or night and even on holidays, unlike humans.
- Innovation and advancement. Experts predict ASI would be more creative than humans. The systems would be able to create solutions to problems that humans can't even think of and out-innovate humans in virtually any field, leading to a better quality of life for humans. This includes a better understanding of the physics of the universe, solving technical challenges of interstellar travel and colonies on Mars, discovering novel treatments and cures for illness, and prolonging human life.
Is artificial superintelligence dangerous?
Scientists warn of the following dangers associated with the development of ASI:
- Unpredictability and loss of control. Because an ASI system would have capabilities beyond humans, it might behave and act in ways that humans can't predict or understand. The systems could also improve and modify themselves, meaning they could potentially change their technology in ways humans can't understand or control. ASI's superior cognitive abilities could pose existential risks to humans, such as a system taking control of nuclear weapons and eliminating humans or all life on earth.
- Unemployment. ASI would automate many human jobs, possibly leading to unemployment among huge groups of workers as well as causing economic and political turmoil.
- Weaponization. ASI capabilities could significantly improve the destructive power of military weapons and warfare. ASI-enabled cybersecurity, programming and political influence could evolve in ways that negatively impact humans. Furthermore, nefarious states, companies and other organizations could misuse the technology for purposes detrimental to humanity, such as the collection of vast amounts of personal data or perpetuating biases and discrimination through biased algorithms.
- Ethics and morality. Programming an ASI system with morals and ethics could be complex, as humanity has never collectively agreed on one set of moral or ethical codes. An improperly programmed ASI system in charge of healthcare or political decisions could have negative effects on humans. People have also raised ethical questions as to whether a nonhuman ASI system should have the authority over humans to make decisions.
Examples of ASI
ASI is still theoretical, so there are no real-life examples of superintelligent machines. Examples in science fiction of machine intelligence include the robot character of R2D2 in the movie Star Wars, which can perform multiple technical operations beyond the abilities of a human. The HAL computer program from the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey can control the functioning of an entire interstellar spaceship.
Real-life examples of AI systems that could be used as the basis for future ASI systems include the following:
- Personal assistants with natural speech recognition, such as Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa.
- Machine learning recommendation algorithms, such as those Netflix uses to suggest new programs and movies based on a user's viewing and search history.
- Self-driving cars, such as Tesla.
- Machine learning tools that assist doctors in diagnoses and treatments.
What is the difference between AI, AGI and ASI?
ASI is often compared to AI and AGI, but there are several key differences.
AI is defined by the following characteristics:
- It's described as narrow or weak AI that serves a dedicated purpose.
- It exists and is useable.
- It encompasses a range of machines, systems and techniques that can perform tasks requiring human-level intelligence.
- It's designed for specific purposes, such as solving problems and performing certain tasks like providing translation. It doesn't have the general intelligence capabilities of the human brain.
- It requires specialized hardware and software for creating machine learning algorithms.
- Common models where AI is used include artificial neural networks, NLP, speech recognition, machine vision, robotics and navigation.
- Current applications include chatbots, translators, virtual assistants, expert systems and self-driving cars.
AGI is defined by the following characteristics:
- It's often referred to as strong AI.
- It hasn't been achieved yet.
- Its goal is to enable machines to perform any task requiring the cognitive abilities of a human being.
- It has multiple human capabilities as well as self-awareness, decision-making, problem-solving, consciousness, social skills, navigation, fine motor skills, sensory perception, creativity and natural language understanding.
- AI researchers believe it is the necessary next step to achieve ASI.
ASI is defined by the following characteristics:
- It's often referred to as strong AI.
- It hasn't been achieved.
- The goal is to design ASI to surpass simple brain emulation and instead perform any cognitive function better than a human. ASI could solve difficult technical and scientific problems that humans have not solved as well as invent and discover virtually anything.
- ASI would have all the capabilities of AGI and human beings as well as the capacity for self-improvement, such as the ability to improve its own intelligence.
- ASI requires significant advancements in computer science, supercomputing technology and next-generation AI.
- Some experts believe ASI poses an existential risk to humanity and could lead to global catastrophe if not properly regulated.
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