The Impossibility Conjecture of Humanoid Artificial Intelligence and the Non-Benign Singularity

Abstract

[A Rough Draft of a Work-in-progress.]

The idea of machines which are almost identical to human beings has been so seductive that it has captured the imaginations of the best minds as well as laypeople for at least a century and half, perhaps more. Right after Artificial Intelligence (AI) came into being, it was almost taken for granted that soon enough we will be able to build Humanoid Robots. This has also led to some serious speculation about ‘transhumanism’. So far, we do not seem to be anywhere near this goal. It may be time now to ask whether it is even possible at all. We present a set of arguments to the effect that it is impossible to create or build Humanoid Robots or Humanoid Intelligence, where the said intelligence can substitute human beings in any situation where human beings are required or exist.

1. Humanoid Intelligence, the Singularity and Transhumanism

Before we proceed to discuss the terms of the title of this section and the arguments in the following sections, we first define the foundational terms to some degree of conciseness and preciseness:

1. Human Life: Anything and everything that the full variety of human beings are capable of, both individually and collectively. This includes not just behaviour or problem solving, but the whole gamut of capabilities, emotions, desires, actions, thoughts, consciousness, conscience, empathy, creativity and so on within an individual, as well as the whole gamut of associations and relationships, and social, political and ecological structures, crafts, art and so on that can exist in a human society or societies. This is true not just at any given moment, but over the life of the planet. Perhaps it should include even spiritual experiences and ‘revelations’ or ‘delusions’, such as those hinted at in the Philip K. Dick story, Holy Quarrel [Dick et al., 1985].

2. Humanoid: A living and reproducing entity that is almost identical to humans, either with a human-like body or without it, on a different substrate (inside a computer).

3. Intelligence: Anything and everything that the full variety of human beings are capable of, both individually and collectively, as well as both synchronically and diachronically. This includes not just behaviour or problem solving, but the whole of life as defined.

4. The Singularity: The technological point at which it is possible to create (or have) intelligence that is Humanoid or better than Humanoid.

5. Transhumanism: The idea that, after the singularity, we can have a society that is far more advanced, for the better, than the current and past human societies. From 1910 to 1927, in the three volumes of Principia Mathematica [ 1925–1927], Whitehead and Russell set out to prove that mathematics is, in some significant sense, reducible to logic. This turned out to be impossible when Godel published his incompleteness theorems in 1931 [Sheppard, 2014, Nagel et al., 2001]. During the days of origins of modern Computer Science, before and in early 1930s, it would have been easy to assume that a computing machine would ultimately solve any problem at all. This also proved to be impossible with Turing’s undecidability theorem [Hopcroft et al., 2006] and the Church-Turing thesis of computability [Copeland and Shagrir, 2018]. Since then, other kinds of problem have been shown to be undecidable.

Now that we are supposed to close be enough to the Singularity [Kurzweil, 2006] so that it may happen within the lifetime of a large number of human beings, perhaps it is time to ask ourselves whether real intelligence, in particular Humanoid Intelligence (as defined above) is possible at all. We suggest that there are enough arguments to ‘prove’ (in an informal sense) that it is impossible to build, to create or to have Humanoid Intelligence. We argue that even though the Singularity is indeed possible, perhaps even very likely (unless we stop it), it may not be what it is supposed to be. The conjecture presented here is that the Singularity is not likely to be even benign, however powerful or advanced it may be. This follows from the idea of the impossibility of Humanoid Intelligence.

2 Some Notes about the Conjecture

We have not used the term theorem for the Impossibility and the reasons for this should be evident from the arguments that we present. In particular, we do not, and perhaps cannot, use formal notation for this purpose. Even the term conjecture is used in an informal sense. The usage of terms here is closer to the legal language than to the mathematical language, because that is the best that can be done here. This may be clearer from the Definition and the Story arguments. It is due to a similar reasoning that the term ‘incompleteness’ is not used and, instead, impossibility is used, which is more appropriate for our purposes here, although Godel’s term ‘essentially incomplete’ is what we are informally arguing for about Humanoid AI, and perhaps AI in general. No claim is made as to whether or not a formal proof is possible in the future at all. What we present is an informal proof. This proof has to be centred around the distinction between Micro-AI (AI at the level of an intelligent autonomous individual entity) and Macro-AI (very large intelligent autonomous systems, possibly encompassing the whole of humanity or the world). To the best of our knowledge, such a distinction has not been proposed before. While there has been some work in this direction [Brooks, 1998, Signorelli, 2018, Yampolskiy, 2020], for lack of space, we are unable to explain how this work differs from previous such works, except by noting that the argumentation and some of the terms are novel, a bit like in the case of arguments for or against the existence of God, which question has been debated by the best of philosophers again and again over millennia, which as we will see at the end, is relevant to our discussion.

3 The Arguments for the Impossibility Conjecture for Micro-AI

The Definition Argument): Even the Peano Arithmetic [Nagel et al., 2001] is based on three undefined terms (zero, number and is successor of ), which are relatively trivial terms compared to the innumerable terms required for AI (the core terms like intelligence and human, or terms like the categories of emotions, leave alone the terms like consciousness).

The Category Argument: A great deal of AI is about classifying things into categories, but most of these categories (e.g. anger, disgust, good or bad) have no scientifically defined boundaries. This is related to the following argument.

The Story Argument: It is almost established now that many of the essential concepts of our civilisation are convenient fictions or stories [Harari, 2015] and these often form categories and are used in definitions.

The Cultural Concept Argument: Many of the terms, concepts and stories are cultural constructs. They have a long history, most of which is unknown, without which they cannot be modelled.

The Individuality, or the Nature Argument: An individual intelligent autonomous entity has to be unique and distinct from all other such entities. It originates in nature and we have no conception of how it can originate in machines. We are not even sure what this individuality exactly is. However, all through history, we have assigned some degree of accountability to human individual and we have strict provisions for punishment of individuals based on this, that indicates that we believe in the concept of the ‘self’ or the ‘autonomous individual’, even when we deny its existence, as is becoming popular today.

The Genetic Determinism Argument: Individuality is not completely determined by nature (e.g. by our genes) at birth or creation once and for all. It also develops and changes constantly as it interacts with the environment, preserving its uniqueness.

The Self-organising System Argument: Human beings and the human societies are most likely self-organising [Shiva and Shiva, 2020] and organic systems, or they are complex, non-equilibrium systems [Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977]. If so, they are unlikely to be modelled for exact replication or reproduction. The Environment, or the Nurture Argument: Both intelligence and individuality depend on the environment (or on nature). Therefore, they cannot be modelled without completely modelling the environment, i.e., going for Macro-AI. The Memory, or the Personality Argument: Both intelligence and individuality are aspects of personality, which is known to be dependent on the complete life-memory (conscious and unconscious) of an intelligent being. There is not enough evidence that it is possible to recover or model this complete temporal and environmental history of memory. A lot of our memory, and therefore our individuality and personality is integrally connected with our bodily memories.

The Susbstrsate Argument: It is often taken for granted that intelligence can be separated from the substrate and planted on a different substrate. This may be a wrong assumption. Perhaps our intelligence is integrally tied with the substrate and it is not possible to separate the body from the mind, following the previous argument.

The Causality Argument: There is little progress in modelling causality. Ultimately, the cause of an event or occurrence is not one but many, perhaps even the complete history of the universe.

The Consciousness Argument: Similarly, there is no good enough theory of consciousness even for human understanding. It is very unlikely that we can completely model human consciousness, nor is there a good reason to believe that it can emerge spontaneously under the right conditions (which conditions?).

The Incompleteness/Degeneracy of Learning Source and Representation Argument: No matter how much data or knowledge we have, it will always be both incomplete and degenerate, making it impossible to completely model intelligence.

The Explainability Argument: Deep neural networks, which are the state-of-the-art for AI, have serious problems with explainability even for specific isolated problems. Without it, we cannot be sure whether our models are developing in the right direction.

The Test Incompleteness Argument: Perfect measures of performance are not available even for problems like machine translation. We have no idea what will be the overall measure of Humanoid Intelligence. It may always be incomplete and imperfect, leading to uncertainty about intelligence.

The Parasitic Machine Argument: Machines completely depend for learning on humans and on data and knowledge provided by humans. But humans express or manifest only a small part of their intelligent capability. So machines cannot completely learn from humans without first being as intelligent as humans.

The Language Argument: Human(oid) Intelligence and its modelling depend essentially on human language(s). There is no universally accepted theory of how language works.

The Perception Interpretation Argument: Learning requires perception and perception depends on interpretation (and vice-versa), which is almost as hard a problem as modelling intelligence itself.

The Replication Argument: We are facing a scientific crisis of replication even for isolated problems. How could we be sure of replication of Humanoid Intelligence, preserving individual uniqueness?

The Human-Human Espitemic Asymmetry Argument: There is widespread inequality in human society not just in terms of money and wealth, but also in terms of knowledge and its benefits. This will not only reflect in modelling, but will make modelling harder.

The Diversity Representation Argument: Humanoid Intelligence that truly works will have to model the complete diversity of human existence in all its aspects, most of which are not even known or documented. It will have to at least preserve that diversity, which is a tall order.

The Data Colonialism Argument: Data is the new oil. Those with more power, money and influence (the Materialistic Holy Trinity) can mine more data from others, without sharing their own data. This is a classic colonial situation and it will hinder the development of Humanoid Intelligence.

The Ethical-Political Argument: Given some of the arguments above, and many others such as data bias, potential for weaponisation etc., there are plenty of ethical and political reasons that have to be taken into account while developing Humanoid Intelligence. We are not sure whether they can all be fully addressed.

The Prescriptivastion Argument: It is now recognised that ‘intelligent’ technology applied at large scale not only monitors behaviour, but changes it [Zuboff, 2018]. This means we are changing the very thing we are trying to model, and thus laying down new mechanical rules for what it means to be human.

The Wish Fulfilment (or Self-fulfilling Prophecy) Argument: Due to prescriptivisation of life itself by imperfect and inadequately intelligent machines, the problem of modeling of Humanoid Intelligence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, where we end up modeling not human life, but some corrupted and simplified form of life that we brought into being with ‘intelligent’ machines.

The Human Intervention Argument: There is no reason to believe that Humanoid Intelligence will develop freely of its own and will not be influenced by human intervention, quite likely to further vested interests. This will cripple the development of true Humanoid Intelligence. This intervention can take the form of secrecy, financial influence (such as research funding) and legal or structural coercion.

The Deepfake Argument: Although we do not yet have truly intelligent machines, we are able to generate data through deepfakes which are not recognisable as fakes by human beings. This deepfake data is going to proliferate and will become part of the data from which the machines learn, effectively modeling not human life, but something else.

The Chain Reaction Argument (or the Law of Exponential Growth Argument): As machines become more ‘intelligent’ they affect more and more of life and change it, even before achieving true intelligence. The speed of this change will increase exponentially and it will cause a chain reaction, leading to unforeseeable consequences, necessarily affecting the modelling of Humanoid Intelligence.

4 The Implications of the Impossibility

It follows from the above arguments that Singularity at the level of Micro-AI is impossible. In trying to achieve that, and to address the above arguments, the only possible outcome is some kind of Singularly at Macro-AI level. Such a Singularity will not lead to replication of human intelligence or its enhancement, but something totally different. It will, most probably, lead to extinction (or at least subservience, servitude) of human intelligence. To achieve just Humanoid Intelligence (Human Individual Micro-AI), even if nothing more, the AI system required will have to be nothing short of the common notion of a Single Supreme God. Singularity at the macro level will actually make the AI system, or whoever is controlling it, individual or (most probably small) collective, a Single Supreme God for all practical purposes, as far as human beings are concerned. But this will not be an All Powerful God, and not a a Kind God, for it will be Supreme within the limited scope of humanity and what humanity can have an effect on, and it will be kind only to itself, or perhaps not even that. It may be analogous to the God in the Phiilip K. Dick story Faith of Our Fathers [Dick and Lethem, 2013], or to the Big Brother of Orwell’s 1984 [Orwell, 1950]. We cannot be sure of the outcome,
of course, but those as likely outcomes as any others. That is reason enough to be very wary of
developing Humanoid Intelligence and any variant thereof.

References

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Some Political Disclaimers

While reading a rant today against Arundhati Roy (Not again!), I came across a new (balancing) label. Neo-Marxism. The ranter says that she and others like her are neo-Marxist ‘intellectuals’. Since my political views have a lot in common with hers, I couldn’t help thinking that I too could be accused of being a neo-Marxist (‘intellectual’ or not).

The idea offends me. So much so that I have decided to declare in advance what I am not. What I most certainly never was. Or will be. I hope this will save the time of those (if any) who bother to pay attention to me and then may want to rant against me. I hope this would allow them to make better use of their energies.

Just in case.

And these are the things I wasn’t, am not and will not be:

  • I most definitely am not a Marxist, let alone a neo-Marxist (whatever that means).
  • I am, most emphatically, not a communist.
  • If I am not a communist, I couldn’t be a Maoist. I hate Stalin and I rank Mao only a little better than him.
  • Nor could I be any of the other things like Leninist, ‘Trotskyst’, etc.

Not just that. I don’t believe in a sudden (violent or non-violent) and quick revolution that will change the world overnight magically. I am almost sure that there will be no final victory and living happily ever after. There can only be a continuous long struggle which is unlikely to completely end ever. Because there are too many things (abstract and concrete; human, inhuman and non-human) which are too strong to be overcome easily. I am not even sure whether some of them can be overcome. Even to overcome a few of them is not going to be possible through just polite academic discourse and a bit of charity here and bit of social work there.

In other words, a dystopia is very likely (almost certain if we don’t try to keep preventing it continuously) but a Utopia is out of the question.

The fact is, I am not even sure whether I am ‘very left liberal’ as I have written on my Orkut profile (which no one visits, including me).

Sure, I might be a lot of other things which people like the above mentioned ranter might find worthy of attack. Or those who advocate ‘let’s discuss it over dinner and not make a fuss’ even if it’s a matter of thousands of lives (or deaths). The latter variety includes those who claim to be admirers and even followers of Gandhi. As far as my knowledge, intelligence and reasoning goes, Gandhi was a Big Fuss Maker (even if not big enough for many) for any cause that he was active for.

That takes me to another disclaimer. I am not a Gandhian either.

Am I a socialist? Am I a leftist? Am I a liberal?

It all depends on what exactly these terms mean for the person who is asking. They could be used to mean anything.

The other day I read someone’s comment on the Outlook website ranting against ‘communal Congress’ and raving in favour (favor for the dominant party) of ‘secular RSS/BJP’.

Even as a BJP national leader was feeling diminished by Nepal being declared a secular republic.

But I am not going to give out disclaimers about not being a communalist or fundamentalist or anything of the sort. Don’t think it’s necessary.

Am I definitely something? I could be, but I am not much interested in being labeled. I want to do many things. I have been many things. I am many things.

Who the heck cares? And why on earth?

Exactly.

‘Just Believe’ doesn’t Help Much After All

Yesterday I wanted to see a movie: a not too depressing one. When I looked through the collection, I came across Finding Neverland. I wasn’t sure whether I had seen that movie before or not, though I remembered seeing Finding Nemo: I had seen it just a few months ago. Since there weren’t many options, I decided to check out this movie.

It turned out that I hadn’t seen it. So I saw it. A movie about a writer? That was enough incentive, but there were also Dustin Hoffman and Kate Winslet. Not necessarily in that order.

To be frank, I didn’t dislike the movie as it went on. However, I started getting uneasy as the words to the effect ‘Believe! Just believe!’ were uttered frequently. And these words were more of a summation of the theme of the movie than a minor highlight. The viewer was not being asked to believe in religion or God (at least not explicitly). So the cause of my unease was not related to believing in religion or the God. The author was asking other characters and the viewer (or the reader) to believe in fairies. In a place called Neverland. Yes, I know the name of the place was meant to be ironical, but the exhortation of believing, just believing, was quite genuine.

I also know that everyone needs the enjoyment offered by some escapist fare at least once in a while. It can even be a positive thing when your spirits are so low that you have to take a break and forget about the depressing reality for a while. Even the most ‘cynical’ or nihilist or ultra pessimists have their own kind of escapist fare. And so do those who believe in directly facing the reality and trying to change it for the better, even if very slowly.

The sincerity of the writer and the other characters of the movie was making me like the movie, but the mantra of ‘Believe! Just believe!’ was putting me off.

I should confess here that by the end of the movie the escapist philosophy was getting a slight edge over my usual outlook. That set me wondering whether escapism may not be a valid way to improve the quality of life. I am what I am because I am constantly susceptible to these self-doubts. Even about the most fundamental issues. Earlier it used to bother me, but now I know that it is not such a bad thing. I mean I know this from my personal knowledge, experience and reasoning, not from what others have said. Learning from personal experience is different from just being told about something. Anyway, I was wondering whether I was wrong in dismissing many escapist works of art (whether high brow or down to earth).

It just happens to be that J. M. Barrie is one of those rare ‘great’ (English language) authors whose books I have not read so far. So I started reading about him (and the movie and the play on which the movie was based) to resolve my transient doubts about my stand against escapist works of art.

And what do I find? On the Wikipedia page itself there was this bit of information:

The lives of the Davies family were rife with tragedy following the film’s optimistic ending: George died fighting in World War I in 1915, Michael drowned with a friend at Oxford in 1921, and Peter grew to hate his identification as “Peter Pan”, eventually committing suicide in 1960.

So, the reality before the play (Peter Pan) was written was not as bad as shown in the movie, but the reality after the play was written was as tragic as it can get for a family of the class to which the Llewelyn Davies boys belonged.

Evidently the ‘Believe! Just Believe!’ philosophy didn’t prove very helpful. Even to the family for which (or based on the members of which) the play was written.

The world may be as bad as I thought it was, but at least I am free from this new unease. Now I can again enjoy escapist fare once in a while.

Without Just Believing.