Value structures and the paperclip maximizer theory

What kind of value structures do we have to develop to protect us from the paperclip maximizer theory?

The paperclip maximizer is the canonical thought experiment showing how an artificial general intelligence, even one designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. First described by Bostrom (2003), a paperclip maximizer is an artificial general intelligence (AGI) whose goal is to maximize the number of paperclips in its collection. If it has been constructed with a roughly human level of general intelligence, the AGI might collect paperclips, earn money to buy paperclips, or begin to manufacture paperclips. With time it would undergo an intelligence explosion: It would work to improve its own intelligence, where “intelligence” is understood in the sense of optimization of power, the ability to maximize a reward/utility function—in this case, the number of paperclips. The AGI would improve its intelligence, not because it values more intelligence in its own right, but because more intelligence would help it achieve its goal of accumulating more paperclips. Having increased its intelligence, it would produce more paperclips, and also use its enhanced abilities to further self-improve. Continuing this process, it would undergo many intelligence explosions and soon reach far-above-human levels. It would innovate better and better techniques to maximize the number of paperclips. At some point, it might transform “first all of earth and then increasing portions of space into paperclip manufacturing facilities”.

What have our value structures to do with it? Is not a big chunk of the people and companies who are in charge of the global and national decision making processes hijacked by a human version of the maximizer, with egotistically constructed value structures?

The maximizer can seem more like super-stupidity than super-intelligence. It would indeed be stupidity, as it would mean the destruction of humakind and the planet. But for the AGI it is the only reasonable thing to do. It won’t revise or otherwise change its goals, since changing its goals would result in fewer paperclips being made in the future, and that opposes its current goal. It has one simple goal of maximizing the number of paperclips; human life, joy, compassion and so on are not specified as goals. An AGI is simply an optimization process—a goal-seeker, a utility-function-maximizer who is efficiently doing its job, not giving a thought to its disharmonious value structure.

Individuals, society , companies and the planet in general are being run by a human version of this phenomena. Powered by selfish interests and a cocktail of deadly sins, disconnected from reality for the sake of earning the extra buck, making the promotion, getting the likes; as long as we make the biggest pile of whatever it is we think will give us the kick that we so long for. Like a junkie looking for a shot, not giving a f… what or who is standing in the way.

I would assume each one of us knows someone or a company, who got so caught up in the chase of their ‘’paperclips” that they don’t see the forest from all the trees anymore. That was easy. Now think about yourself, WE ALL have this virus. It is a lot of work to develop skills that enable one to be aware of the processes that are happening inside us and give the chance to see beyond (through) the paperclips.

The question we have to ask ourselves:

What’s your paperclip and which values cannot be compromised to achieve it?

Luckily there are people with value structures oriented towards the well being of mankind and the planet. Some of them had good mentors, some learned it with experience, some got it the hard way, no matter what the case was, they who hold values as truth, compassion, love, harmony,… as the foundation of their existence. A sense of a win-win deal is underneath it all. They understand that they need to take care of themselves, their families and friends, neighborhoods, global care for people and the environment. Only this way can they be truly successful and do the real maximization of the processes.

If your life is not yet filled with these kind of people, go and look for them. Make a list of the people who inspire you, make them your role models and do whatever it takes (joke intended) to create a solid value structure for your life.

Corona made us STOP. Use this time to take a break, a deep breath and look around for the people you want to spend your life with and start contributing to a collective positive outcome.

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