AGI: the best opportunities and the worst threats?

Dear Futurists,

Our event this Saturday provides a window into the fascinating – and sometimes provocative – insights arising from the recent survey “The Rise and Implications of AGI”.

As a reminder, the survey was jointly organised by Fast Future, London Futurists, and the UK node of the Millennium Project. A total of 199 sets of responses were received, from people in 42 countries spanning six continents.

On Saturday, Rohit Talwar and I will be presenting some highlights from the survey, covering areas such as:

  • Factors influencing the emergence of AGI – when, where, and who
  • Expected benefits from AGI
  • Expected risks from AGI
  • The skills that should be prioritised, in anticipation of the rise of AGI
  • Options to steer or govern the rise and practice of AGI
  • Implications for business, the economy, and society at large.

Rohit is the CEO of Fast Future.

Ahead of the event on Saturday, I’d like to share a quick preview of some of the content that will be discussed.

1.) Realistic and desirable outcomes?

One of the questions that came early in the survey was: Which of the following do you most anticipate as realistic and desirable outcomes of AGI?

Survey respondents were asked to pick up to five outcomes from a set of 12 possible options. The answers were as follows, starting from the ones that received the most votes:

  • Solutions to healthcare problems such as cancer and dementia:74%
  • Discovery of new fields of science and technology: 69%
  • Solutions to climate change, environmental, and sustainability: 57%
  • Development of new industries, professions, and jobs: 56%
  • Creation of fully immersive and personalised AR / VR worlds: 47%
  • A superabundance of low-cost clean water, food, energy, etc: 39%
  • Truly inclusive, accessible & stable economic & financial systems: 33%
  • More transparent, effective, and representative government: 30%
  • Creation of art, literature, and music with unprecedented quality: 23%
  • Resolving geo-political disputes without need for physical conflict: 16%
  • A just and fair society: 16%
  • Government by AGI instead of by humans: 7%

2.) The most serious threats?

Moving from potential good news to potential bad news, the next question in the survey was: Which of the following outcomes of AGI represent the most serious threats?

Again, respondents were asked to pick up to five outcomes. Here are their answers:

  • Poor regulation leads to uncontrolled and uncontrollable developments: 62%
  • Uneven distribution of AGI capabilities across nations: 58%
  • Potential for use of AGI to manipulate economic and financial markets: 55%
  • Inability of citizens to challenge decisions made by AI: 53%
  • Makes the most powerful companies omnipotent and beyond the law: 51%
  • AGI capability gaps create global economic and financial instabilities: 36%
  • Massive reduction of employment: 34%
  • Government by AGI instead of by humans: 29%
  • AGI making decisions on access to critical resources and social benefits: 29%
  • A global war is triggered in a competitive rush to create the first AGI: 20%
  • AGI decides that the human population should be significantly reduced: 20%

3.) Skills to prioritise?

Toward the end of the survey, respondents were asked to answer this question: What skills should be prioritised, in anticipation of the rise of AGI?

Here are the answers – once again listed in order of votes:

  • Society wide awareness of AI, AGI, and what they could enable: 65%
  • AI and AGI fundamentals as part of the core school curriculum: 54%
  • The ability to apply philosophical theories of ethics and morality to AGI: 52%
  • Deep AGI literacy among politicians, business leaders, and policy makers: 49%
  • Creativity and imagination: 47%
  • A deep pipeline of AGI skills – data science, application design, coding, etc: 44%
  • Emotional intelligence and personal fulfilment: 43%
  • Capacity to develop policy options and regulations to govern AGI development: 38%
  • Developing deep technical skills across all STEM disciplines: 30%
  • Agile and lean methods to support rapid adaptation by organisations: 27%
  • Bridge-building and conflict-avoidance / resolution: 20%

4.) Governing the rise of AGI?

As you’ll see on Saturday – and as you will remember if you kindly took the time to submit your own responses – the survey had a wide range of other questions. For now, I’ll just pick out one further set of answers. This is for the question, Which are the best approaches to governing the rise of AGI?

  • Create a global AGI governance institution: 67%
  • Take all AGI IP into the hands of the public or a global governance body: 41%
  • Write into legislation Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics: 38%
  • Let 100 flowers bloom: different approaches in different nations/regions: 36%
  • Put ethicists and artists in charge of the development of AGI: 31%
  • Use today’s AI to oversee the development of AGI: 20%
  • Enhance humans with brain implants to make them as smart as AGI: 20%
  • Market self-regulation: 16%
  • Hands off: Avoid any attempt to govern the rise of AGI: 9%
  • Restrict any research that could hasten the rise of AGI: 5%

5.) Join the conversation!

You probably viewed the above data with a mixture of agreement and disagreement. You may have felt that some answers deserved to be ranked much higher – including answers that weren’t even included as options for selection. You might think that some answers that were popular are actually unrealistic or confused. Perhaps, in your view, particular ideas urgently require to become better understood by members of the general public.

You may well also have some comments and suggestions for actions to be taken as follow-ups to this survey, including potential deeper dives into some areas.

If so, your participation on Saturday will be very welcome. As well as more numerical data of the type shown above, the conversation between Rohit and me will highlight a selection of the textual responses submitted by survey respondents. Although the responses to the survey showed a consensus in a few areas, there was stark divergence in others. This discussion, evidently, is far from over.

On Saturday, as the meeting proceeds, you’ll be able to offer comments in the group text chat and Q&A windows. And at the end of the formal 90 minute webinar, audience members who wish to continue the discussion on a more informal basis will be invited to turn on their microphones and cameras (if they wish) for a “pub style” conversation.

For more details about the event, and to register to take part, click here to visit the meetup page.

Alternatively, this link will take you straight to the Zoom webinar registration page.

Note: as an experiment on this occasion, our normal UKP £2.50 Zoom webinar registration fee has been waived. I know that some people have occasionally experienced difficulties with that aspect of joining our events. This time, your experience should be smoother!

// David W. Wood
Chair, London Futurists

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