Theories about artificial intelligence (AI) taking over humans in the future are not new. Several scientists including Stephen Hawking and tech-billionaire Elon Musk have warned about the potential danger development of AI could pose. But James Lovelock, the veteran scientist and environmentalist believes AI taking over humans will just be evolutionary and it would not end mankind, rather it would keep humans like "we keep plants in the garden."
In his book Novacene, which was published last year, Lovelock said that AI would evolve into cyborgs and will be capable of designing and building themselves from the AI system that humans have developed to become self-sufficient ad self-aware. Like viruses, AI will also self-replicate and constantly evolve until they become "thousands, then millions of times more intelligent than us," he said.
However, unlike Hawking and Musk, Lovelock doesn't see AI threatening the human race. He believes computers will also be threatened by climate change like humans are. Hence, keeping the planet habitable will be important for both. "By remarkable chance, it happens that the upper temperature for both organic and electronic life on the ocean planet Earth are almost identical and close to 50C," he said.
While scientists consider that humans are still in the Anthropocene era that began in the 1950s with frequent nuclear tests accelerating climate change. During the year, humans have developed planetary-scale technologies that contributed more towards the rapid climate change. Even though scientists and environmentalists suggest that Anthropocene is a "great crime against nature", Lovelock believes this is a natural evolution.
"The truth is that, despite being associated with mechanical things, the Anthropocene is a consequence of life on Earth. It is a product of evolution; it is an expression of nature," he said.
His book, Novacene depicts the new geologic age of Earth where AI began to change the course of the planet. Lovelock says that the Novacene era began in October 2015 when the AI-powered computer program AlphaGo beat a human in the strategy game Go. AlphaGo was developed by Deepmind which was later acquired by Google. But the win marked AI's journey towards defeating its masters — humans.
While it has only been five years and despite the rapid progress of AI, it is yet to take over humans, the technology is only going to develop further. It means that AI will eventually have enough intelligence to overtake humans as a race. But Lovelock is optimistic.
The originator of the Gaia hypothesis believes that as humans depend on other organic beings such as plants, even AI would need to rest on us. Thus, super-intelligent AI and humans would work together towards climate change and prevent the planet from becoming inhabitable.
Mars Not the Answer
He also dismisses the ideas of Hawking and Musk who believe leaving Earth and colonize other planets like Mars will be the only way to save the race. Instead, he believes the immediate focus should be saving Earth.
"I know a fair amount about Mars. I don't think we'll start colonies on Mars. I cannot think of a much more inhospitable place. I think Elon Musk is a very clever man, he must be, otherwise, he wouldn't be so rich. But to want to go and live on Mars is just about as crazy as you could be," said the inventor, who is now 101 years old. Lovelock helped NASA develop sensitive instruments that are now on Mars curiosity rover that is used to study the planet's atmosphere.