A Lesson from a Squashed Cockroach: Contemplating AI and Humanity's Position

Squashing a cockroach led to contemplating AI and our role in the world. Like humans and cockroaches, advanced AI may view us as annoying but not worth destroying. Embracing AI possibilities without fear can lead to a brighter future.
April 5, 2023
James Kell
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Last night, I squashed a cockroach.

A seemingly inconsequential event, yet it provoked me to ponder artificial intelligence (AI) and our role within the vast tapestry of existence.

Drawing parallels between ourselves and a cockroach offers striking insights into our rapport with AI. As humans, we frequently speculate on the magnitude of our intellectual superiority over creatures like cockroaches.

Are we 100 times more intelligent? 1,000 times?

But is it even meaningful to compare intelligence using mere numbers? It is plausible that the disparity lies not in the scale of our intellect, but rather in the entirely distinct manner in which we think.

This notion led me to contemplate our apprehensions regarding AI dominance and the potential extinction of humanity, as deliberated by thinkers like Eliezer Yudkowsky. Reflecting upon the cockroach analogy, we are indubitably more intelligent than these insects and often harbour antipathy towards them.

Yet, despite exterminating them upon encounter, we haven't pursued their total annihilation. They may vex us, but our existence doesn't revolve around their eradication. It is here that I surmise numerous AI alarmists may err.

We need to depart the human-centred universe for just a second.

As a wise individual once said, "It's not about you." We must bear this counsel in mind when pondering the progression and future of AI.

When AI attains an IQ of 40,000, it is likely to confront its own unique challenges that we cannot even fathom. In the presence of these advanced AI, we may resemble cockroaches—annoying yet ultimately unworthy of their time to destroy.

So, what implications does this hold for us?

It signifies that we should approach AI with caution, maintain an optimistic outlook, and abstain from living in fear of the unknown. As the adage goes, "A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

Let us embrace the possibilities that AI has to offer without permitting fear to govern our lives.


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