A prominent Oxford philosopher who is known for making terrifying predictions about humanity has a new theory about our future, and it isn’t pretty.
Over 15 years ago, Nick Bostrom, author of Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, made the case that we are all living in a Matrix-like computer simulation run by another civilization.
Here’s a summary of that theory, explained by Vox:
In an influential paper that laid out the theory, the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom showed that at least one of three possibilities is true: 1) All human-like civilizations in the universe go extinct before they develop the technological capacity to create simulated realities; 2) if any civilizations do reach this phase of technological maturity, none of them will bother to run simulations; or 3) advanced civilizations would have the ability to create many, many simulations, and that means there are far more simulated worlds than non-simulated ones. (source)
Will humanity eventually be destroyed by one of its own creations?
If you find the idea of living in a computer simulation that is run by unknown beings troubling, wait until you hear Bostrom’s latest theory.
Last Wednesday, Bostrom took the stage at a TED conference in Vancouver, Canada, to share some of the insights from his latest work, “The Vulnerable World Hypothesis.”
While speaking to head of the conference, Chris Anderson, Bostrom argued that mass surveillance could be one of the only ways to save humanity – from a technology of our own creation.
His theory starts with a metaphor of humans standing in front of a giant urn filled with balls that represent ideas. There are white balls (beneficial ideas), grey balls (moderately harmful ideas), and black balls (ideas that destroy civilization). The creation of the atomic bomb, for instance, was akin to a grey ball — a dangerous idea that didn’t result in our demise.
Bostrom posits that there may be only one black ball in the urn, but, once it is selected, it cannot be put back. (Humanity would be annihilated, after all.)
According to Bostrom, the only reason that we haven’t selected a black ball yet is because we’ve been “lucky.” (source)
In his paper, Bostrom writes,
If scientific and technological research continues, we will eventually reach it and pull it out. Our civilization has a considerable ability to pick up balls, but no ability to put them back into the urn. We can invent but we cannot un-invent. Our strategy is to hope that there is no black ball.
If technological development continues then a set of capabilities will at some point be attained that make the devastation of civilization extremely likely, unless civilization sufficiently exits the semi-anarchic default condition. (source)
Bostrom believes the only thing that can save humanity is government.
Bostom has proposed ways to prevent this from happening, and his ideas are horrifyingly dystopian:
The first would require stronger global governance which goes further than the current international system. This would enable states to agree to outlaw the use of the technology quickly enough to avert total catastrophe, because the international community could move faster than it has been able to in the past. Bostrom suggests in his paper that such a government could also retain nuclear weapons to protect against an outbreak or serious breach.
The second system is more dystopian, and would require significantly more surveillance than humans are used to. Bostrom describes a kind of “freedom tag,” fitted to everyone that transmits encrypted audio and video that spots signs of undesirable behavior. This would be necessary, he argues, future governance systems to preemptively intervene before a potentially history-altering crime is committed. The paper notes that if every tag cost $140, it would cost less than one percent of global gross domestic product to fit everyone with the tag and potentially avoid a species-ending event. (source)
These tags would feed information to “patriot monitoring stations,” or “freedom centers,” where artificial intelligence would monitor the data, bringing human “freedom officers” into the loop if signs of a black ball are detected.
How very Orwellian.
Being monitored by artificial intelligence is a horrifying idea.
The idea of artificial intelligence monitoring human activity is particularly alarming, considering that we already know AI can develop prejudice and hate without our input and that robots have no sense of humor and might kill us over a joke. Many experts believe that AI will eventually outsmart humans, and the ultimate outcome will be the end of humanity.
Is having robot overlords a good idea, even if they might prevent someone from selecting a black ball? We already have mass surveillance, and global governance seems to be on the way as well.
Bostrom acknowledged that the scenario could go horribly wrong, but he thinks the ends might justify the means:
Obviously, there are huge downsides and indeed massive risks to mass surveillance and global governance.
On an individual level, we seem to be kind of doomed anyway.
I’m just pointing out that if we are lucky, the world could be such that these would be the only way you could survive a black ball. (source)
For those who remain skeptical, Bostrom advises weighing the pros and cons:
A threshold short of human extinction or existential catastrophe would appear sufficient. For instance, even those who are highly suspicious of government surveillance would presumably favour a large increase in such surveillance if it were truly necessary to prevent occasional region-wide destruction. Similarly, individuals who value living in a sovereign state may reasonably prefer to live under a world government given the assumption that the alternative would entail something as terrible as a nuclear holocaust. (source)
What do you think?
If you had to choose between the kind of surveillance and global government Bostrom proposes or eventual annihilation by AI, which would you select? Do you think the possibility of a black ball being selected is a genuine threat? If so, how soon do you think it will happen? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
About the Author
Dagny Taggart is the pseudonym of an experienced journalist who needs to maintain anonymity to keep her job in the public eye. Dagny is non-partisan and aims to expose the half-truths, misrepresentations, and blatant lies of the MSM.
The only way I will ever be monitored or allow anything like that is from the grave, no ifs ands or buts about it, they would first have to disarm me and with what I know about our present government and such it will not be in their best interest to even try.
So, given the possibility that AI will itself become a one world government (aka Skynet of the Terminator movies), or some other technology will otherwise destroy us, this jerk’s idea is to use AI to monitor humans to prevent us from creating a technology which will destroy us? So just in case we might be destroyed, let’s create something which will, of necessity, destroy our humanity and possibly our lives? To bring to pass that which he claims he is opposed to?
I have heard so many (always illogical) reasons put forward us to accept chains and slavery and submit to “out betters”, but this is so absurd it is hilarious.
To BillH, amen brother!
I would rather die… then be a rat in a cage!
What hogwash! 1) Humans are the top of the food chain, therefore; 2) Humans would be doing all the AI programming, as well as providing ALL the surveillance, both hardware, software, and labor. 3) Humans are NOT perfect and cannot possibly write any software that is free of bugs and errors (states someone who has been in the computer industry for 40 years). And, 4) most importantly, many humans, given the chance to be “in charge” will opt for power and greed rather than helping or protecting humanity from itself.
I watch a LOT of science documentaries about our planet and the universe and I personally cannot believe there is any human or other civilization capable of building a matrix or computer simulation as complicated and perfect as this earth and this universe other than an all knowing, omnipotent God. (And I am swayed by NO religion as religion is also man-made.)
I don’t see any expertise here, only intellectual gymnastics to justify more tyranny. Government will save us? Human beings are addicted to government because it’s the ultimate cop-out: Trust government to fix everything because we won’t fix anything ourselves. And government is just a collective term for a cadre of power-hungry individuals who are adept at pulling the wool over people’s eyes, along with their flunkies, cronies and hangers-on, and who have led the human race by the nose to the brink of self-destruction through a genocidal medical system, a rigged economy, an agricultural system that feeds us poison, and a “defense” system that thrives on warfare. This guy may be living in the matrix, but the universe I live in is real. And by the way, I have a Yale PhD in Religion and Philosophy with 25+ years of college teaching experience. I guess that makes me as much of an expert as him.
This author is just pushing the NWO AGENDA!!!
I held my nose to run a Google search on Nick Bostrom. Hard leftist Google immediately displayed dozens of search hits, and none in any prominent position were critical of his dingbat theory of ultimate global centralization by controlling every human on the planet. (A bit like unlimited spending promoting mainstream Keynesian economists get government blessings, while free market Austrian economists get government’s cold shoulder.)
We have thousands of years of history to teach us that civilizations typically either commit suicide (frequently by out-of-control spending), die from monumental natural disasters (like long term droughts, eg), or get destroyed by military invaders with bigger and more powerful armies. The gut-wrenching stupid notion that AI plus implanted electronics in every individual can stop any of those classic causes of destruction is a measure of how irresponsible academia can be (while gravy-train grant-seeking from governments) hoping to publicly justify their totalitarian think-tank pipe dreams of total control.
There is a long history in the last thousand years of country after country ruining their own currency that was serving as the world reserve currency, from Portugal to Spain, from France to England, and now the US is the biggest debtor ever in world history — as nation after nation seeks ways to bail out of dependence on the American petro-dollar racket — agreed on in 1971 with Saudi Arabia. We became the newest despised “money changer in a global temple.” Much of early Christian civilization was about opposition to centralized tyranny — so much that early Rome first tried to murder Christians by the thousands, but finally co-opted them to use Christianity as their state religion. But that didn’t stop Rome from spending like crazy on their global empire of that day, until those out-of-control ventures destroyed their currency by unlimited debasement. Roman legions in foreign countries were literally abandoned. Today the US has somewhere between 800 and a thousand military installations around the globe, and financials that are utterly unsustainable. And the US military-industrial-congressional complex has to be aware of that history, and I suspect is desperate to find a way to prolong its gravy train unless their retirement is secured.
I see Nick Bostrom as just one more grant-seeking suck-up to totalitarians (and wannabees) in office trying to whitewash over their ambitions.
The author of the paper is just re-pitching minority report as an original idea
Better we go extinct than be controlled by the garbage that runs our respective governments.
Big surprise all this and guess who the big winners would be? The multi national, globalist corporations lording over a world full of de facto third world, peasant, units of labor and consumption.
What he is proposing IS the Black Ball.
You hit the nail on the head!
Rogue govt must be reined in, and spying stopped, and NWO disbanded. GOD BLESS AMERICA.
There are an infinite number of ideas. It is likely that more than a few can be identified as Bostrom’s black balls. Many more will be precursors of black balls. One of them would appear to be the idea of implementing the anti-black ball system he proposes. Mission creep always occurs and it seems possible that AI surveillance systems would extend the definition of “bad” behavior in their human subjects to ban more and more ideas, eventually stifling scientific progress. Thought and language will eventually be considered to be black balls by the monitoring systems. Ultimately, the only way to avoid “bad” ideas is to get rid of all humans.
The fact of the matter is that we are going to run out of easily obtainable and inexpensive oil energy. One result will be a massive contraction in technology and the current life styles it allows. The current paradigm that we all live under will be utterly destroyed and force a return to the land to survive – many won’t. One hopes that all of the knowledge accumulated will not be lost but will be redirected in more efficient and practical applications.
Judy Cross is right! This WOULD be the black ball.
If Bostrom is so historically perceptive, how did he fail to notice that governments attract mostly power-hungry psychopaths? His global government would attract the worst of the worst and would bring on exactly what he thinks it would avoid. He needs a logic course! Sane people are not obsessed with telling everyone else how to live.
I disagree with the title of this article. Mr. Bostrom is not an expert. He is just an overly educated person making wild suppositions.
I believe…..who the hell cares what some nutcase professor thinks about our future. this isn’t Star Trek pal. this is real life. if he is fine with being ruled over by some global AI and monitored so he can feel all warm and fuzzy at night after slaving for the overlords all day, that is his problem. don’t be shoving your bs down the throats of everyone else. we would be better off dead then living in his reality.
We are but mere organisms seeking gratification and more orgasms… We take ourselves far too seriously.
“Global Government and Mass Surveillance May Be Needed to Save Humanity, Expert Says”
And who would be at the top of the food chain??? Why the same kike bastards that cheat, lie and steal everything that is not tied down of course!
Take A look around, I don’t think that the globalist plan is to save humanity, and it appears to me that humanity is kicking their collective ass around the world; freedom and sovereignty is on the rise.
If government is the answer, it was A stupid question!
This guy’s entire argument reads like an episode of Person of Interest.
We already have access to planet annihilating technology.
We already have the capability to surveil every human being 24/7.
The idea of our living our lives in a computer simulation has been done to death both in the sci fi fiction genre and in film.
Even the idea that only by signing all of our rights and liberties over to the nanny state has been examined.
Boston had come up with an episode of The Twilight Zone -there isn’t even enough original material here for a feature film and people are actually taking these “theories” seriously?
Good gravy, Marie!
Oh yeah, in answer to your question, hell no I’m not going to go for the Government or a computer running every aspect of my life! What moderately sane person would say yes?
Should read Bostrom . Darn auto correct! Typical of computers and one more reason not to let them be in charge.
In the 1960s we had a theory that no one would use nuclear weapons because of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction). But in order for MAD to work, both sides have to believe that each use of nuclear weapons would result in one’s own destruction too.
But what will happen if one side doesn’t believe in MAD? Would that side be willing to start a nuclear war?
From reports that I hear, Putin and his generals don’t believe in MAD. They think that they can make a surprise nuclear attack on the U.S. that would result in their winning the war. Further, he doesn’t recognize any authority above himself, especially not a world government.
How would a world government using AI deal with this scenario?
Another problem with world government is the human failing of a madman wanting to become the overall dictator. If we have several smaller governments, the damage can be limited to one country. In World War II we had three powerful countries so perverted. Just think what could have happened if Hitler had taken over a world government? How many more millions would Stalin have murdered had he had a world government to take over? Mao murdered more people than anyone else, can you imagine the bloodbath had he had a world government to take over? Be thankful we didn’t have a world government for one of them to take over then.
Then how will such a world government choose enemies? Anyone who is a free thinker will be an enemy. Anyone who acknowledges a higher authority than the world government will be an enemy. Anyone who chafes at restrictions the government places on him will be an enemy. The firing squads will be busy. How many of us will be counted among those “enemies”?
Russia wants war? Indeed, look at how close they put their country to all those U.S. military bases.
What this writer has done is nothing more than to become a government stooge, plying his thoughts and feelings, as an exercise in scaremongering….which is what governments are very good at doing.
If people TRULY wanted to get their act together and HELP the planet and its people, they would
immediately get themselves a Claim of the Live-Life. It requires at least 200 hours for the study involved, which removes form the Fiction system we live in, and places you on the Earth as a certified FACT.
The majority of the world’s writers, authors, publishers, editors, school teachers, and media owners would NOT have a clue what I’m talking about, as they’re too busy fawning at the feet of Mammon and Azazel.
There is a perfect method of removing ALL wars, ALL arguments, ALL divorces, and ALL disagreements, and ALL Fake News. It requires at least 200-300 hours study, which will turn into 2000 without you even realizing it has taken place.
I have personally witnessed the results of using Correct-Parse-Syntax-Grammar within court documents and felonious banking inquiries……shuts down every action brought against you!
This showed up just this morning:
Political Centralization Ended the Roman Republic, by Dave Benner
If AI is not controlled by humans, AI could just as easily decide to obliterate the human race if it decided that was a good thing. If AI is controlled by humans, then AI will be controlled to benefit the people who control AI, and AI will control you for that purpose.
In other words, the idea of controlling people is a stupid idea. People, individually, must control destructive ideas to survive. We can’t appoint an AI nanny to do that for us. Any central authority controlling people and ideas will simply become a horror show.
Responsibility always comes down to the individual.
What I know is that he is already in error and running a false simulation himself by starting with the premise that the ‘white’ ball is beneficial and the ‘black’ ball brings destruction. Why can’t the ‘bad’ ball be red or metallic green? Its a dog whistle and stale and tired on top of that. How about some Originality, some Creativity and some actual ‘think outside the matrix indoctrination’ inspirational theories? Stop helping to assist in ushering in the very future that you pretend to be against.
Politics is rooted in fear, hatred, and destructiveness.
Politics has no future, it has existed only because of the neurosis of humankind.
Once the neurosis disappears, politics will disappear.
Politics itself is out of date.
Politicians no longer have any function, they are unnecessarily bothering the whole humanity.
We have praised these phony politicians for far too long.
Now the time has come, their phoniness should be fully exposed.
Now we can see they are all unfit to hold power.
They are all psychologically ill, they are all pathological.
Always trying to find ways and means to manipulate others, and to be dominant over others.
It is time for all politicians to disappear from the planet.
In three thousand years we have fought over five thousand wars, it is as if we have not been doing anything else, continuous fighting somewhere or other.
This is a very mad state of affairs.
Humanity’s past is insane.
And the present becomes more insane with each passing day!
Psychologists say the average mental age of people is thirteen.
This is the situation.
This is how humanity has lived up to now.
A thirteen-year mental age means, at the age of thirteen people have stopped growing.
Yes, they go on growing old, but they don’t grow up.
Growing old is one thing, growing up is totally different.
Growing old is a physiological phenomenon, growing up means intelligence, maturity, wisdom.
And only those who go on growing with consciousness, grow up.
But everybody has become identified with this or that ideology.
They have all lost their clarity of vision, they are all clouded.
Continuously looking through these clouds, everybody remains stunted and fragmented.
Only consciousness can deliver humanity from this bondage.
And this new consciousness can come only through you. .
It is only when consciousness becomes new that society becomes new.
Let me share a couple of ancient wisecracks about “experts” and politicians:
To translate the meaning of “expert”, just remember that an X refers typically to some unknown quantity, and a spurt is a drip under pressure.
Regarding politicians, one wag once said that politics is just show business for ugly people.
With those two less-than-scientific observations out of the way, here is an alternative view of artificial intelligence — from an MIT guy in the thick of such thinking:
The future is for extended intelligence — NOT artificial intelligence, by Joi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab
(and NOT at a top level “centralized” control point)
Spread this out on the corn field, it is almost time to plant.
Yeah, humanity will be destroyed by its own creation called GMOs.
This label used by Bostrom should let anyone know with an IQ over 100 what team Bostrom is on, and it’s not the good guys.
With infinite space and infinite time, there are obviously huge numbers of “life” out there. If it is possible to develop a runaway superintelligent A.I. system, then someone/something already has and we are living in it. Bostrom doesn’t have the corner on intelligence. My uncle measured a 185+ IQ in the military and mine was measured at 159. I am of German heritage and think very independently.
Beware of Bostrom, he is willing to sell out his fellow Man based on what he wrote here.
I would vote for AI eliminating Bostrum.
I’d choose death or destruction. Point blank…end of story.
“I know not what others may do. But for me GIVE ME LIBERTY OR GIVE ME DEATH.”