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  • Writer's pictureGreg Robison

Artificial General Intelligence: Potential Benefits of AGI to Society


“Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence—AI systems that are generally smarter than humans—benefits all of humanity. If AGI is successfully created, this technology could help us elevate humanity by increasing abundance, turbocharging the global economy, and aiding in the discovery of new scientific knowledge that changes the limits of possibility. AGI has the potential to give everyone incredible new capabilities; we can imagine a world where all of us have access to help with almost any cognitive task, providing a great force multiplier for human ingenuity and creativity.” -- OpenAI CEO Sam Altman on AGI

So far, we’ve discussed human intelligence and how AI’s capabilities are getting close to ours in many respects, leading to the ultimate question of “So what?” The so what is Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) which could have transformative effects across our society. It could revolutionize the way we live, work, and solve complex problems of every type. When we create intelligent machines that can think, learn, and reason like humans, innovation will be unleashed on science, the economy, climate change, even social progress. And when these intelligent machines can improve themselves by designing better neural network designs and more complex AI chips, their capabilities will far outpace ours in a short time. Imagine having a million tireless super-geniuses working on our biggest issues – innovation is sure to take off.

a million geniuses in work stations
The power of a million super-geniuses working on a problem can transform the world (Dall-e3)

AGI has the potential to accelerate scientific research and discovery by helping scientists analyze huge amounts of data, generate and test hypotheses, iterate, and identify patterns and insights that would take humans experts years to uncover, if ever. Think about the complexity of identifying intricate protein structures to fight disease or analyzing all of the cosmic data coming from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for keys to how the universe works. In fields such as medicine, materials science, and space exploration, AGI could help us develop new treatments, create innovative materials, and explore the universe in ways we never thought possible. By augmenting human intelligence with the speed, accuracy, and relentlessness of AGI, we could achieve scientific breakthroughs at an unprecedented rate across fields. And AGI would also look inwards and work on improving itself, leading to an exponential increase in capability.

“Superintelligence … is the last invention we will ever need to make.” --Nick Bostrom

AGI could also help us solve complex global challenges that have been plaguing us such as climate change, epidemics, and even poverty. With the ability to process and intelligently analyze massive amounts of data from various sources, AGI could help us develop more accurate climate models, optimize resource allocation, and identify effective strategies for mitigating the impacts of climate change. To help fight poverty, AGI could assist in creating personalized interventions, improving access to education and healthcare, and encouraging economic development in underprivileged communities. AGI can help us accelerate progress towards the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals and create a more equitable and sustainable world.

AGI can enhance both our society at a macro level but also our many individuals. Personalized education powered by AGI could adapt to each person’s unique learning style, pace, and interest, providing bespoke content and support to maximize everyone’s learning potential. In healthcare, AGI could revolutionize diagnosis, treatment, and drug discovery by analyzing patient data, identifying risk factors, and developing personalized treatment plans. AGI-assisted technology could also help individuals with disabilities, providing greater accessibility and independence. AGI can potentially help everyone thrive in their own unique way.

kids in classroom with robot teachers
Education based on each child’s needs can close the education gap (Dall-e3)

AGI will drive significant economic growth (and thus the high-stakes race to be the first) and job creation in new industries. Just as the Industrial Revolution and the internet transformed the global economy, the development of AGI would create a new era of innovation and productivity. New businesses and industries will emerge to manage and harness the power of AGI, creating job opportunities in fields such as AI development, data analysis, and robotics. AGI would help automate repetitive and dangerous tasks, freeing up human workers to focus on doing more fulfilling work. We are already using AI to do repetitive tasks like clean/ recode datasets, writing basic code, which frees up our employees to spend their time feeding their curiosity.

Turning AGI’s superior reasoning abilities towards governance and decision-making could provide data-driven insights to help leaders make more informed and effective choices. AGI could help policymakers identify trends and develop evidence-based solutions to complex problems. AGI could also assist in monitoring the implementation and impact of policies, allowing real-time adjustments and improvements. We can create more responsive and accountable governmental systems that better meet and serve the needs of their citizens.

official government round table
The ability to super-intelligently analyze immense datasets can supercharge decision-making (Dall-e3)

Some additional potentially transformative effects of AGI:

  • Safety and Security: From predicting and managing natural disasters more effectively to enhancing cybersecurity, AGI has the potential to protect societies and potentially predict disasters ahead of time.

  • Quality of Life: Everyday life could be markedly improved with AGI through smarter cities, personalized technology assistance, and by automating mundane tasks, allowing people more leisure time and a higher standard of living.

  • Ethical and Fair Decision-Making: Though this is a complex and contentious area, there’s potential for AGI to assist in making unbiased decisions based on comprehensive data analysis, benefiting governance, justice, and societal norms.

“I believe that the rapid progress of AI is going to transform society in ways we do not fully understand and not all of the effects are going to be good.” -- Geoffrey Hinton, “Godfather of AI” on AGI

However, once we achieve AGI, or “The Singularity”, growth becomes uncontrollable and irreversible. As we pursue this goal, we need to consider the ethical implications and ensure it is developed responsibly. The creation of intelligent machines raises important questions about privacy, security, fairness, and accountability. We need to have clear guidelines and regulations to govern the development and deployment of AGI in decision making, ensuring that it aligns with human values and promotes society’s wellbeing. There will likely be unintended consequences, ones that we can’t foresee, but by staying ahead of development with ethical considerations, we can maximize its benefits and minimize its risks. Additional concerns include:

  • Loss of Jobs: One of the most immediate concerns is the automation of tasks currently performed by humans, leading to widespread job losses and economic inequality. While new jobs may be created, there is uncertainty about the pace of this transition and whether the new jobs will be accessible to those displaced.

  • Security Risks: AGI systems could be weaponized or used in cyber-attacks, presenting unprecedented challenges to national and global security. The autonomous nature of AGI could make controlling such systems difficult if they are deployed maliciously or without sufficient safeguards.

  • Ethical and Privacy Concerns: The deployment of AGI could lead to increased surveillance and erosion of privacy. Decisions made by AGI systems might not align with human values or ethics, especially in sensitive areas like criminal justice, healthcare, and social services.

  • Loss of Control: A fundamental risk of AGI is the possibility that it could become uncontrollable or make decisions that are incomprehensible to humans, leading to unintended consequences. This includes the so-called “alignment problem,” where AGI’s goals diverge from human values and intentions.

  • Economic and Social Inequality: The benefits of AGI might not be evenly distributed, exacerbating existing inequalities. Those who control AGI technologies could gain disproportionate wealth and power, leading to greater social stratification.

  • Dependency: Over-reliance on AGI systems could erode human skills and capacities. In critical sectors like healthcare, transportation, and defense, this could have serious implications if systems fail or are compromised.

  • Existential Risk: Perhaps the most extreme risk is the hypothetical scenario where AGI surpasses human intelligence and autonomy, potentially leading to human extinction or a radical alteration of human life.

white man in government room
AGI will be a qualitative change to our society in ways that none of us can fully anticipate (Dall-e3)

To best realize the beneficial effects of AGI, we need collaboration between researchers, policymakers, and our society at large. It shouldn’t be mega corporations or academics deciding alone – it requires input and engagement from diverse stakeholders, including governments and the public. With an open dialogue, we can ensure that AGI reflects the needs and values of our entire society. And with a more productive future, we can share the benefits worldwide.

Once AI systems are as smart or smarter than our smartest humans, the benefits to society will be immense and far-reaching. From accelerating scientific discovery, to solving global climate change, to technological innovation, AGI has the potential to transform our work and personal lives. However, to get there, we need a responsible and collaborative approach to AGI development, one that prioritizes the well-being of humanity first and foremost. Together, we can harness the potential of AGI for a better future for us and future generations of humans. As we stand on the precipice of a monumental achievement, it becomes increasingly important to shape the right future. AGI isn’t just a technical challenge, but a social and philosophical one too. It requires us to grapple with fundamental questions like the nature of intelligence, our relationship with machines, and the potential for machine consciousness. We may still have a little time to figure all of this out before it’s too late…

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