Nick Bostrom Discusses Superintelligence, AI, And Deep Utopia In Dinis Guarda YouTube Podcast

In the latest episode of his YouTube Podcast, Dinis Guarda interviews Nick Bostrom, philosopher, author, and researcher with a background in theoretical physics, computational neuroscience, logic, and artificial intelligence. They discuss the challenges in the era of advanced technologies and the utopian vision of the future that Nick presents in his latest book ‘Deep Utopia’. The podcast is powered by and

Nick Bostrom Discusses Superintelligence, AI, And Deep Utopia In Dinis Guarda YouTube Podcast

Nick Bostrom is a researcher and the author of more than 200 publications, including Anthropic Bias (2002), Global Catastrophic Risks (2008), Human Enhancement (2009), Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies (2014), and Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World (2024). He is known for his work on existential risk, the anthropic principle, human enhancement ethics, whole brain emulation, superintelligence risks, and the reversal test.

AI has lately become recognized universally as an important thing that is happening but that was not always the case. There have been big shifts in our intellectual culture over the past two decades”, Nick tells Dinis.

We are moving into potentially very powerful agent systems that will be able to do all the full kind of reasoning and planning and and acting but much faster and better than humans.

Super intelligence is the last invention that humans will ever need to make because then future inventions will be more efficiently done by the machine brains that can think faster and better than humans. So AI is ultimately all of technology that kind of becomes fast forwarded. Once you have the super intelligence doing the research so it is a really much more profound it’s not like you know mobile internet or one of blockchain or one of these other sort of things people get excited about every few years but it’s more akin to the emergence of homo sapiens in the first place or the emergence of life on Earth”, says Nick.

Superintelligence and AI: Humanity coexists with advanced technologies

While the powerful tools that advanced technologies offer to humanity hold the potential to revolutionise diverse fields, they also pose ethical, social, and existential challenges. Elaborating these challenges in detail, Nick told Dinis: 

The foremost challenge in today’s time is AI alignment. The problem of scalable alignment is the methods whereby we can ensure that arbitrarily cognitively competent systems will do what we intend for them to do when we create them. So aligning them with human values or intentions or otherwise having safeguards that ensure that they don’t produce harmful consequences. It is still, I think, an unsolved problem. There’s a kind of race going on between capability of increasing research and safety of increasing research and how that race turns out might be like a critical factor in shaping what the future contains for us humans.”

However, Nick points out that human conflicts and competitive dynamics are the major factors of the existential risks:

The risks that somehow arise from human conflict, if you place all of those in one bucket that might be the biggest bucket because a lot of risks that might manifest as a specific problem using some other technology have as the root cause the failure of humanity to coordinate at the global level. The fact that we are working at cross purposes so that gives rise to arms race and military buildups, and the failure to take care of our global commons. If you zoom in on AI, you could see how various competitive dynamics might exacerbate some of the risks of a transformative AI.”

Deep Utopia: Life and Meaning in a Solved World

Nick explains that a Utopian vision of an integrated era of humanity and advanced technologies is like a “philosophical particle accelerator in which extreme conditions are created that allow us to study the elementary constituents of our values”

This”, he says, “you can read in two ways. First, if things go well we will eventually end up in this condition or reach some point where some set of people will need to make decisions about which particular trajectory they want to go down. I think that there are these realistic prospects of impending transformation whether it’s a couple of years or a couple of decades or whatever but possibly within the time lifespan of a lot of people existing today. 

You could also read it just completely aside from any particular assumption about what the actual future will hold just as a philosophical thought experiment if you want where you might by considering human values. In this extreme context, get the better understanding of exactly what those human values are and you can then project that back on our current existence and and maybe understand better what we really value about our current condition what might give meaning in our current lives by projecting our values through this experimental apparatus and seeing how they decompose into their constituents when you smash them into one another in this philosophical particle accelerator so it, I think, can serve both of those functions.

Nick highlights the technological maturity scenario as:

At technological maturity, you would enter into a condition where the point and purpose of a lot of daily manual activities would be removed. That’s the sense in which we would start to inhabit a post instrumental condition: a condition where at least you know, with some exceptions perhaps, but to first approximation that we don’t need to do anything for instrumental reasons. Then you’re alluding to an even more radical conception I call it plastic Utopia where you realize it’s not just that human efforts that seem to become obsolete in this technologically mature condition but human itself becomes malleable. In that, you could use these advanced technologies to shape your own psychology, your own cognition, your own attention, your own emotions, your own body in whichever way you want. A lot of the constraints, the instrumental necessities, the like fixed constants of human nature that define our existence currently that structure our lives would be removed at technological maturity.” 

Concluding the interview, Nick explained his Utopian vision to Dinis:

I think the best utopian lives will probably be in some ways quite fundamentally different from our current lives and the best future would probably not be the one in which we just keep doing what we are doing for like 10 more million years but like living very much our current human lives with our current scarcity and our current biological limitations and just keep doing that.

I think the most possible great scenarios would involve substantial amounts of gradual transformation and that we might end up becoming significantly transformed beings.”