Philosophy Colloquium on AI Alarmism

Posted on 4/11/2018 1:27:30 PM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Hans Pedersen (IUP) will give a talk titled “Is AI an Existential Threat to the Human Race?” on Friday, April 20, at 3:30 p.m. in the Humanities Building, room 206. All are welcome to attend.


The past several years have seen an increase in what I will call “AI alarmism”—the idea that we are on the cusp of developing artificial intelligence that is so powerful that its emergence could potentially produce catastrophic consequences for the human race. There is, of course, a spectrum of how dire these consequences are predicted to be, but the direst predictions involve scenarios seen in science fiction movies like The Terminator and The Matrix, in which a highly advanced form of artificial intelligence sets out to destroy or enslave humanity. It is this most alarmist version of AI alarmism that I will be questioning here.

My criticism of this direst form of alarmism will be loosely based on issues found in Martin Heidegger’s work, though perhaps not in the traditional way that Heidegger has been used to cast doubt on the possibilities of AI. The aim of this paper will not be to freshen the Dreyfusian/Heideggerian critique against the possibility of developing AI that can perform certain tasks. Rather, the focus will be on the “motivation” that a sophisticated AI would have to perform certain actions, particularly, the destruction or enslavement of the human race. I will argue that when we think about the likely motivational structure of AI and compare it to the Heideggerian account of the human agency, there is little reason to think that a form of AI would intentionally try to wipe out humanity.