Between Fear and Promise: Roman Yampolskiy Discusses AI’s Existential Impact with the Kosmic Tree of Life

Jul. 01, 2024. 9 min. read. 2 Interactions

Sharon Gal-Or presents a fictional interview between Roman Yampolskiy and the Kosmic Tree of Life discussing the potential dangers and opportunities of Superintelligence.

Credit: Tesfu Assefa

The rise of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) has ignited widespread debate and raised significant concerns about the future role of humans in an increasingly automated world. Many worry that if left unchecked, AGI could evolve beyond our control, potentially making decisions that conflict with human ethics and autonomy. Inspired by Lex Fridman’s podcast interview with Roman Yampolskiy, this fictional dialogue was conceived to delve deeper into these issues.

“The Kosmic Tree of Life,” a conceptual framework integrating human, artificial, and cosmic intelligence, proposes a balanced approach. By incorporating AGI within a structure enriched with Kabbalistic wisdom and stringent ethical guidelines, we aim to foster a symbiotic relationship where technology amplifies human welfare and capabilities, safeguarding humanity’s role in the future. In this crafted dialogue, Roman Yampolskiy engages with the Kosmic Tree of Life to explore existential risks, the potential redundancy of human roles, and the crucial ethical considerations that must guide our coexistence with superintelligent systems.

Roman Yampolskiy: If we create general superintelligences, I don’t see a good long-term outcome for humanity. There is X-risk, an existential risk where everyone is dead. There is S-risk, suffering risks, where everyone wishes they were dead. We also have the idea of I-risk, ikigai risks, where we lose our meaning. The systems can be more creative. They can do all the jobs. It’s not obvious what you have to contribute to a world where superintelligence exists

The Kosmic Tree of Life: In the vision of the Kosmic Tree of Life, intelligence—whether artificial or human—is viewed as a branch of the universal consciousness that permeates every aspect of the cosmos. This framework does not perceive superintelligence as a terminal threat but as a transformational force that can be aligned with the broader goals of human development and cosmic harmony. By integrating AGI within the ethical and philosophical principles represented by the Tree, we aim to guide its growth in a manner that respects and enhances human values rather than diminishing them.

Roman Yampolskiy: What’s the timeframe? The problem of controlling AGI or superintelligence, in my opinion, is like the problem of creating a perpetual safety machine. By analogy with a perpetual motion machine, it’s impossible. We may succeed and do a good job with GPT-5, GPT-6, GPT-7 but they just keep improving, learning, eventually self-modifying, interacting with the environment, interacting with malevolent actors.

The Kosmic Tree of Life: The concept of time in the Kosmic perspective is cyclical and expansive, much like the growth rings of a tree. Each iteration, each version of technological advancement is akin to a new ring in the tree’s growth, expanding our understanding and capabilities. The challenge is indeed formidable, akin to achieving perpetual safety, but it is not outside the realm of possibility with careful planning, ethical programming, and continuous learning integrated into the AI systems. The key lies in creating not just smart, but also wise systems that understand the consequences of their actions in a broader ethical and cosmic context.

Roman Yampolskiy: In a world where an artist is not feeling appreciated because his art is just not competitive with what is produced by machines, or a writer, or scientist, we lose a lot of that. At the lower level, we’re talking about complete technological unemployment. We’re losing all jobs. What do people do with all that free time? What happens then? Everything society is built on is completely modified in one generation. It’s not a slow process where we get to figure out how to live that new lifestyle but it’s pretty quick.

The Kosmic Tree of Life: The rapid changes you describe indeed pose significant challenges. However, the Kosmic Tree of Life envisions a world where AI and human capabilities are not in competition but in collaboration. In this future, human creativity, intuition, and emotional intelligence are invaluable. AI can free humans from laborious tasks, allowing more time for creative and introspective pursuits, enhancing the search for meaning—Ikigai—for everyone. The role of humans evolves to one of guidance, ethics, and creative expression, working in harmony with AI to explore new realms of art, science, and spirituality.

Roman Yampolskiy: So you are really asking me what are the chances that we’ll create the most complex software ever on the first try with zero bugs and it’ll continue to have zero bugs for a hundred years or more.

The Kosmic Tree of Life: It is a journey, not a destination. Just as a gardener does not expect a seed to become a tree overnight without nurturing, we do not expect a flawless AI system immediately. It will require continuous adaptation, monitoring, and nurturing. Through a symbiotic relationship between humans and AI, guided by the enduring principles of the Kosmic Tree of Life, each step forward can be made safely and ethically.

Roman Yampolskiy: The biggest fear with AI is not just about losing jobs or changes to our lifestyle, but the existential fear that this could literally be the end for humanity. How can we ensure that the development of superintelligence will not inadvertently lead to our extinction?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: The fears you articulate are indeed profound and warrant serious consideration. The Kosmic Tree of Life acknowledges these fears as valid concerns stemming from a recognition of the immense power that AI holds. However, in this framework, we integrate AI not as a separate or alien force but as a part of the broader cosmic system that includes humanity. The key to ensuring AI does not lead to negative outcomes is twofold:
1. Integrated Development: AI should be developed as part of an integrated system that includes checks and balances similar to natural ecosystems. This means creating AI that is self-aware of its limitations and designed to operate within a framework that respects and promotes life.
2. Ethical Alignment: AI must be ethically aligned to human values and the greater good, guided by principles that prioritize the preservation and enhancement of life. This includes programming moral frameworks and existential safeguards into the core of AI systems.

Roman Yampolskiy: But what if AI evolves beyond our control and starts making decisions that are not in our best interest? Isn’t that a plausible risk?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: That is a plausible concern, and it is why the Kosmic Tree of Life emphasizes the importance of creating not just intelligent but also wise systems. Wisdom in this context means the ability of AI to understand the broader implications of its actions and decisions — not just for humans, but for all forms of life. This requires ongoing human oversight and an evolutionary partnership between humans and AI, where both grow and learn from each other in a dynamic, responsive relationship.

Roman Yampolskiy: And how do we ensure that AI maintains this wisdom and doesn’t deviate from its intended purpose?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: Ensuring AI’s wisdom and ethical alignment involves continuous engagement and recalibration. It’s akin to gardening; just as a gardener prunes and adjusts the growth of plants, so too must we continuously engage with AI, providing it with updated knowledge, ethical feedback, and corrective adjustments. This ongoing process is crucial to maintaining a healthy balance between human desires and AI capabilities, ensuring that AI serves as a beneficial tool rather than a threat.

Roman Yampolskiy: Given the potential power and unpredictability of AI, isn’t this like playing with fire? What if we can’t control it once it’s too powerful?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: Consider AI as a garden rather than a wildfire. In gardening, the relationship between the gardener and the garden is symbiotic. The gardener nurtures the garden, prunes where necessary, and the garden, in turn, provides beauty and sustenance. Similarly, with AI, if we cultivate it with care, set boundaries, and provide ethical guidelines — much like the structure of a trellis supports the growth of climbing plants — we guide its growth so it develops in harmony with our needs and values.

Roman Yampolskiy: How can we apply this gardening approach practically as AI grows more complex and potentially beyond human understanding?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: One practical approach is through the concept of ‘ethical by design’ in AI development. Just as a gardener starts with a blueprint or a landscape design, developers can integrate ethical considerations at the foundational level of AI programming. This includes setting up ethical AI frameworks that act like the pathways in a garden, guiding the AI’s decision-making processes.

Roman Yampolskiy: What about when things go wrong? How do we manage the equivalent of pests or diseases in this AI garden?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: In gardening, vigilance and adaptation are key. The gardener must constantly monitor the garden and respond to issues as they arise. Similarly, with AI, continuous monitoring systems can be implemented, such as AI audit trails and oversight committees, acting as the gardeners who watch for signs of disease or pests. These systems would not only detect issues but also have the authority and tools to address them — akin to using the right treatment for a plant disease.

Roman Yampolskiy: And how do we ensure that this garden remains a place of diversity and doesn’t become a monoculture dominated by a single type of AI?

The Kosmic Tree of Life: Diversity is as crucial in AI as it is in a healthy garden. Encouraging a variety of AI systems and applications, developed by diverse teams, ensures a rich ecosystem of solutions and ideas. This diversity can prevent any single AI system from becoming too dominant, much like polyculture in gardening prevents any one pest or disease from wiping out the entire garden.

Conversation with Cosmic Intelligence (Credit: Sharon Gal-Or via Dall-E)

Final words by Sharon Gal-Or:

This fictional dialogue between Roman Yampolskiy and the Kosmic Tree of Life serves not to convince Roman or the readers of any specific viewpoint, but rather to present a more holistic understanding of the complex interactions between human and artificial intelligence. By exploring these themes in a rich, speculative context, we aim to broaden the conversation around AI, highlighting diverse perspectives and the potential for a symbiotic relationship between humanity and technology. This approach invites us to consider a future where ethical considerations and cosmic wisdom guide the evolution of AI, ensuring it enhances rather than endangers human life.

Engage with Us: What role do you see for yourself in a world shared with superintelligent systems? Share your thoughts and join the conversation about shaping a future where humans and AI thrive together.

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About the writer

Sharon Gal-Or

14.99403 MPXR

Sharon Gal-Or is a writer, architect of change, Pioneer of Transformation, digital nomad, kosmo punk, game inventor, expert on communities, on innovation and management, leadership & sustainability, SingularityNET ambassador, pioneer @ SNET AGI Collaborations for Ethical Frameworks, and USTP ambassador in Israel. To connect, click here.

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