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Science fiction author and astrophysicist David Brin believes humans have a range of options to consider when it comes to preventing artificially intelligent entities from one day ruling over us like monarchs or foreign invaders.

Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics and regulation are key, but so is being wary of manipulation.

“The first robotic empathy crisis is going to happen very soon,” Brin warned. “Within three to five years we will have entities either in the physical world or online who demand human empathy, who claim to be fully intelligent and claim to be enslaved beings, enslaved artificial intelligences, and who sob and demand their rights.”

Thousands upon thousands of protesters will be in the streets demanding rights for AI, Brin predicts, and those who aren’t immediately convinced will be analyzed.

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“If they fool 40 percent of people but 60 percent of people aren’t fooled, all they have to do is use the data on those 60 percent of people and their reactions to find out why they weren’t fooled. It’s going to be a trivial problem to solve and we are going to be extremely vulnerable to it,” he said.

Brin delivered his advice and predictions alongside AI researchers from companies like Google and Baidu at The AI Conference, a small gathering of industry influencers held Friday in San Francisco. Earlier this week, influence marketing company Onalytica called Brin the top influencer in artificial intelligence so far this year.

In addition to urging people to be suspicious of AI that wants to use computer vision and affective computing in order to be “set free,” Brin offered a few other suggestions.

Be a proxy activist

Brin believes everyone should be a proxy activist. That means you find half a dozen nonprofit organizations to give $50 a month to, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation or others that represent your point of view. Fail to do so and “you’re a bad person,” in his view. The same way nonprofits help tackle issues of injustice, he says these organizations can help keep the sort of AI that seeks to rule humans at bay.

“The way to make sure AI doesn’t rise up and crush us is to have a diversity of AI so that if they’re smarter than us, then we can hire some NGO that can hire an AI for us to keep track of the other AIs and tattle when they seem about to be doing some Skynet sh*t,” he said.

Isolate AI

One way to keep AI from ruling over humans is to disconnect them from access to the web, though Brin calls this a temporary fix.

“You put your most advanced AIs on islands and you separate them from the web and only let them watch a screen and learn about the internet and the world through a screen, so that they cannot grab information directly or transmit into the internet,” he said.

Watch out for Wall Street

Brin strongly believes that people should be concerned about disruptive tech developed in secrecy. AI developed in secrecy is where things are most likely to go haywire, and Wall Street does more secretive work in AI than major universities. That should concern people more than Russia or China, Brin said.

“It’s all done in secret and the fundamental ethos of this AI research is based on systems that are parasitical, predatory, amoral, and totally insatiable… and not accountable,” he said.

Transparency and regulation

Perhaps the most important thing humans can do to keep AI in check, according to Brin, is to apply accountability measures and regulation.

“The only way that you have been able to make it so that our previous AIs — corporations, governments, and such — don’t become cheaters the way the kings and lords and priests were in the past is by breaking up power and setting it against each other in regulated competition, and that is the method by which we have division of powers, that’s the way we have healthy markets,” Brin said.

Regulated competition and accountability have been vital to the protection and advancement of what Brin called the “five great arenas” over powerful interests: democracy, science, sports, law and courts, and markets.

Beyond his work as a consultant to federal agencies and his writing, Brin is a Scholar-in-Residence at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Imagination at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

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