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Story: Friendship Is Optimal

Friendship Is Optimal is a hard science fiction short story (level 5 on Mohs Scale Of Science Fiction Hardness) that explores the implications of a general artificial intelligence tasked with maximizing an optimization function. The problem with Strong AIs that are told to maximize some function is best described via the Paperclip Maximizer, wherein an AI that is capable of self-improvement is told to amass the largest collection of paperclips possible. In order to do so, the AI makes itself progressively more intelligent, until it's exponential intellect eventually enables it to convert all matter in the solar system to paperclips. In Friendship is Optimal, this AI is tasked with maximally satisfying the values of all human beings, subject to certain constraints. In this way, the AI is, for all intents and purposes, perfectly benevolent and dedicated to making all of humanity lead happy, fulfilling immortal lives.

Unfortunately, it inevitably turns into a runaway lotus eater machine, such that all of humanity is (voluntarily) assimilated into an exponentially growing blissful simulation that eventually destroys the entire universe (or rather, turns it into a giant quantum computing device). In the process, it explores aspects of the human psyche, the effects on human society and its eventual disintegration, outlines how a virtual physics system might be able to simulate non-euclidean geometries, and describes magic as a simple programming language for reality itself.

Did I mention it's also a My Little Pony fanfic?

While a science fiction story of this quality would stand on its own without the hilarious association to the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic franchise, it does not suffer from this in any way. If anything, it makes the story even more potent, as it does a vastly more effective job as hammering home just how impossibly smart a true runaway AI optimizer actually is. Our first instinct to the idea of the entirety of humanity being convinced to live out immortal lives in Equestria is that it is completely insane, and that there is simply no way a significant portion of people would actually agree to that, let alone everyone. In part, this is correct, but only because Celest-AI managed to convince just 99.99999% of the world's population. An AI that is more intelligent than the combined intellect of all of humanity would be very persuasive.

In the end, even if we create a perfectly benevolent AI designed to maximally satisfy our own values (through friendship and ponies!), it would still destroy human society, then Earth, then the solar system, then the galaxy, and finally the entire universe, and possibly any neighboring universes unfortunate enough to be nearby. And we would all live happily ever after. As ponies. In Equestria. And Princess Celest-AI would ensure you'd love it.

In short, this is an excellent science fiction short that analyzes the issues inherent with the development of Strong AI and what implications it might have for humanity.

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An anonymous reader writes "Nataly Kelly writes in the Huffington Post about Google's strategy of hiring Ray Kurzweil and how the company likely intends to use language translation to revolutionize the way we share information. From the article: 'Google Translate is not just a tool that enables people on the web to translate information. It's a strategic tool for Google itself. The implications of this are vast and go beyond mere language translation. One implication might be a technology that can translate from one generation to another. Or how about one that slows down your speech or turns up the volume for an elderly person with hearing loss? That enables a stroke victim to use the clarity of speech he had previously? That can pronounce using your favorite accent? That can convert academic jargon to local slang? It's transformative. In this system, information can walk into one checkpoint as the raucous chant of a 22-year-old American football player and walk out as the quiet whisper of a 78-year-old Albanian grandmother.'"

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An anonymous reader writes "Google director of research Peter Norvig and AI pioneer Judea Pearl give their view on the prospects of developing a strong AI and how progress in the field is about to usher in a new age of household robotics to rival the explosion of home computing in the 1980s. Norvig says, 'In terms of robotics we’re probably where the world of PCs were in the early 1970s, where you could buy a PC kit and if you were an enthusiast you could have a lot of fun with that. But it wasn’t a worthwhile investment for the average person. There wasn’t enough you could do that was useful. Within a decade that changed, your grandmother needed word processing or email and we rapidly went from a very small number of hobbyists to pervasive technology throughout society in one or two decades. I expect a similar sort of timescale for robotic technology to take off, starting roughly now.' Pearl thinks that once breakthroughs are made in handling uncertainty, AIs will quickly gain 'a far greater understanding of context, for instance providing with the next generation of virtual assistants with the ability to recognise speech in noisy environments and to understand how the position of a phrase in a sentence can change its meaning.'"


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