Artificial Intelligence - Who Is Nick Bostrom?


Nick Bostrom(1973–) is an Oxford University philosopher with a physics and computational neuroscience multidisciplinary academic background.

He is a cofounder of the World Transhumanist Association and a founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute.

Anthropic Bias (2002), Human Enhancement (2009), Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014), and Global Catastrophic Risks (2014) are among the works he has authored or edited (2014).

Bostrom was born in the Swedish city of Helsingborg in 1973.

Despite his dislike of formal education, he enjoyed studying.

Science, literature, art, and anthropology were among his favorite interests.

Bostrom earned bachelor's degrees in philosophy, mathematics, logic, and artificial intelligence from the University of Gothenburg, as well as master's degrees in philosophy and physics from Stockholm University and computational neuroscience from King's College London.

The London School of Economics gave him a PhD in philosophy.

Bostrom is a regular consultant or contributor to the European Commission, the United States President's Council on Bioethics, the CIA, and Cambridge University's Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

Bostrom is well-known for his contributions to a variety of subjects, and he has proposed or written extensively on a number of well-known philosophical arguments and conjectures, including the simulation hypothesis, existential risk, the future of machine intelligence, and transhumanism.

Bostrom's concerns in the future of technology, as well as his discoveries on the mathematics of the anthropic bias, are combined in the so-called "Simulation Argument." Three propositions make up the argument.

The first hypothesis is that almost all civilizations that attain human levels of knowledge eventually perish before achieving technological maturity.

The second hypothesis is that most civilizations develop "ancestor simulations" of sentient beings, but ultimately abandon them.

The "simulation hypothesis" proposes that mankind is now living in a simulation.

He claims that just one of the three assertions must be true.

If the first hypothesis is false, some proportion of civilizations at the current level of human society will ultimately acquire technological maturity.

If the second premise is incorrect, certain civilizations may be interested in continuing to perform ancestor simulations.

These civilizations' researchers may be performing massive numbers of these simulations.

There would be many times as many simulated humans living in simulated worlds as there would be genuine people living in real universes in that situation.

As a result, mankind is most likely to exist in one of the simulated worlds.

If the second statement is true, the third possibility is also true.

It's even feasible, according to Bostrom, for a civilization inside a simulation to conduct its own simulations.

In the form of an endless regress, simulations may be living within simulated universes, inside their own simulated worlds.

It's also feasible that all civilizations would vanish, maybe as a result of the discovery of a new technology, posing an existential threat beyond human control.

Bostrom's argument implies that humanity is not blind to the truth of the external world, an argument that can be traced back to Plato's conviction in the existence of universals (the "Forms") and the capacity of human senses to see only specific examples of universals.

His thesis also implies that computers' ability to imitate things will continue to improve in terms of power and sophistication.

Computer games and literature, according to Bostrom, are modern instances of natural human fascination with synthetic reality.

The Simulation Argument is sometimes mistaken with the restricted premise that mankind lives in a simulation, which is the third argument.

Humans, according to Bostrom, have a less than 50% probability of living in some kind of artificial matrix.

He also argues that if mankind lived in one, society would be unlikely to notice "glitches" that revealed the simulation's existence since they had total control over the simulation's operation.

Simulator creators, on the other hand, would inform people that they are living in a simulation.

Existential hazards are those that pose a serious threat to humanity's existence.

Humans, rather than natural dangers, pose the biggest existential threat, according to Bostrom (e.g., asteroids, earthquakes, and epidemic disease).

He argues that artificial hazards like synthetic biology, molecular nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence are considerably more threatening.

Bostrom divides dangers into three categories: local, global, and existential.

Local dangers might include the theft of a valuable item of art or an automobile accident.

A military dictator's downfall or the explosion of a supervolcano are both potential global threats.

The extent and intensity of existential hazards vary.

They are cross-generational and long-lasting.

Because of the amount of lives that might be spared, he believes that reducing the danger of existential hazards is the most essential thing that human beings can do; battling against existential risk is also one of humanity's most neglected undertakings.

He also distinguishes between several types of existential peril.

Human extinction, defined as the extinction of a species before it reaches technological maturity; permanent stagnation, defined as the plateauing of human technological achievement; flawed realization, defined as humanity's failure to use advanced technology for an ultimately worthwhile purpose; and subsequent ruination, defined as a society reaching technological maturity but then something goes wrong.

While mankind has not yet harnessed human ingenuity to create a technology that releases existentially destructive power, Bostrom believes it is possible that it may in the future.

Human civilization has yet to produce a technology with such horrific implications that mankind could collectively forget about it.

The objective would be to go on a technical path that is safe, includes global collaboration, and is long-term.

To argue for the prospect of machine superintelligence, Bostrom employs the metaphor of altered brain complexity in the development of humans from apes, which took just a few hundred thousand generations.

Artificial systems that use machine learning (that is, algorithms that learn) are no longer constrained to a single area.

He also points out that computers process information at a far faster pace than human neurons.

Humans will eventually rely on super intelligent robots in the same manner that chimps presently rely on humans for their ultimate survival, according to Bostrom, even in the wild.

By establishing a powerful optimizing process with a poorly stated purpose, super intelligent computers have the potential to cause devastation, or possibly an extinction-level catastrophe.

By subverting humanity to the programmed purpose, a superintelligence may even foresee a human response.

Bostrom recognizes that there are certain algorithmic techniques used by humans that computer scientists do not yet understand.

As they engage in machine learning, he believes it is critical for artificial intelligences to understand human values.

On this point, Bostrom is drawing inspiration from artificial intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky's concept of "coherent extrapolated volition"—also known as "friendly AI"—which is akin to what is currently accessible in human good will, civil society, and institutions.

A superintelligence should seek to provide pleasure and joy to all of humanity, and it may even make difficult choices that benefit the whole community rather than the individual.

In 2015, Bostrom, along with Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, Max Tegmark, and many other top AI researchers, published "An Open Letter on Artificial Intelligence" on the Future of Life Institute website, calling for artificial intelligence research that maximizes the benefits to humanity while minimizing "potential pitfalls." Transhumanism is a philosophy or belief in the technological extension and augmentation of the human species' physical, sensory, and cognitive capacity.

In 1998, Bostrom and colleague philosopher David Pearce founded the World Transhumanist Association, now known as Humanity+, to address some of the societal hurdles to the adoption and use of new transhumanist technologies by people of all socioeconomic strata.

Bostrom has said that he is not interested in defending technology, but rather in using modern technologies to address real-world problems and improve people's lives.

Bostrom is particularly concerned in the ethical implications of human enhancement and the long-term implications of major technological changes in human nature.

He claims that transhumanist ideas may be found throughout history and throughout cultures, as shown by ancient quests such as the Gilgamesh Epic and historical hunts for the Fountain of Youth and the Elixir of Immortality.

The transhumanist idea, then, may be regarded fairly ancient, with modern representations in disciplines like artificial intelligence and gene editing.

Bostrom takes a stand against the emergence of strong transhumanist instruments as an activist.

He expects that politicians may act with foresight and command the sequencing of technical breakthroughs in order to decrease the danger of future applications and human extinction.

He believes that everyone should have the chance to become transhuman or posthuman (have capacities beyond human nature and intelligence).

For Bostrom, success would require a worldwide commitment to global security and continued technological progress, as well as widespread access to the benefits of technologies (cryonics, mind uploading, anti-aging drugs, life extension regimens), which hold the most promise for transhumanist change in our lifetime.

Bostrom, however cautious, rejects conventional humility, pointing out that humans have a long history of dealing with potentially catastrophic dangers.

In such things, he is a strong supporter of "individual choice," as well as "morphological freedom," or the ability to transform or reengineer one's body to fulfill specific wishes and requirements.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Artificial Intelligence here.

See also: 

Superintelligence; Technological Singularity.

Further Reading

Bostrom, Nick. 2003. “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?” Philosophical Quarterly 53, no. 211: 243–55.

Bostrom, Nick. 2005. “A History of Transhumanist Thought.” Journal of Evolution and Technology 14, no. 1: 1–25.

Bostrom, Nick, ed. 2008. Global Catastrophic Risks. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Bostrom, Nick. 2014. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Savulescu, Julian, and Nick Bostrom, eds. 2009. Human Enhancement. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

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