Vitalik Buterin on superintelligence: merge or die

Across the board, I see far too many plans to save the world that involve giving a small group of people extreme and opaque power and hoping that they use it wisely. And so I find myself drawn to a different philosophy, one that has detailed ideas for how to deal with risks, but which seeks to create and maintain a more democratic world and tries to avoid centralization as the go-to solution to our problems.


Unless we create a world government powerful enough to detect and stop every small group of people hacking on individual GPUs with laptops, someone is going to create a superintelligent AI eventually - one that can think a thousand times faster than we can - and no combination of humans using tools with their hands is going to be able to hold its own against that. And so we need to take this idea of human-computer cooperation much deeper and further.

A first natural step is brain-computer interfaces. Brain-computer interfaces can give humans much more direct access to more-and-more powerful forms of computation and cognition, reducing the two-way communication loop between man and machine from seconds to milliseconds. This would also greatly reduce the mental effort” cost to getting a computer to help you gather facts, give suggestions or execute on a plan.

Later stages of such a roadmap admittedly get weird. In addition to brain-computer interfaces, there are various paths to improving our brains directly through innovations in biology. An eventual further step, which merges both paths, may involve uploading our minds to run on computers directly.


If we want a future that is both superintelligent and “human”, one where human beings are not just pets, but actually retain meaningful agency over the world, then it feels like something like this is the most natural option. There are also good arguments why this could be a safer AI alignment path: by involving human feedback at each step of decision-making, we reduce the incentive to offload high-level planning responsibility to the AI itself, and thereby reduce the chance that the AI does something totally unaligned with humanity’s values on its own.

least implausible option

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