In Our Final Invention, a brilliant and terrifying look at the very real threat of artificial intelligence, James Barrat makes the claim that we will soon be facing an alien menace of our own making: a super intelligence that, while not necessarily bent on our destruction, will be ambivalent about us at best—and one that may decide we are worth more as biological building blocks than human beings. While Barrat argues passionately about the need to prepare for this inevitability now and find a way to keep it contained, the odds are that no matter what we do, it will find a way to break out of its box. And once it does, it will surely evolve to the point of deciding we are far more trouble than we’re worth.
Think about it for a moment. We’re closer than ever to the Singularity. Various forms of AI surround us, from our iPhone’s personal assistant to search algorithms, car computer systems and Amazon’s “recommended for you” lists. Brilliant men and women are throwing billions of dollars at AI research and development. Let’s face it: an AI that can learn is coming, and once that happens, our time is limited. Even if it is not malevolent, it will most certainly view us as expendable depending on its own needs—as Barrat points out, humans don’t hate lab rats, but we experiment on them in many horrible ways. We are engineering our own extinction.