If one were to look up the definition of philosophy, that person would find a rather large array of concepts this one word attempts to encompass. For example, philosophy is described as the study of the nature of reality, the basis of knowledge, logic and reason, and the place of ethics within these concepts. So it seems that philosophy is a concept that is most apt to describe a method of thought. A method which attempts to discern the nature of the absolute truth in the universe, and how to take this truth, and wield it. To wield it as a tool which is the ultimate key to allow the betterment of the lives of every man. That is always what I had envisioned when I thought of the word "philosophy".
When you think of discerning the nature of truth, the first thing you will have to think about is intelligence. Intelligence is described as the faculty which allows a higher understanding. Through understanding comes practical knowledge, and then the use of these to manipulate the environment to eventualize a desired outcome is intelligence. Therefore when we think of "intelligent" beings, we will judge these through a submission of those beings to tests which measure traits which exhibit understanding and knowledge of nature and the environment, and how to translate that understanding into practical solutions to practical problems.
And so then this is the key, intelligence. So let's talk about it. Over the evolutionary history on earth, the general state of intelligence has been increasing. First by fits and starts, and then ever more steadlily and ever faster. It has been increasing exponentially over time. As this intelligence increases, the facility of life on the planet earth has achieved increasing ability to manipulate the environment for the benefit of each of the beings therein. And also to their detriment. This is of course where ethics comes back into play.
There is a concept called utilitarianism. The general idea is, that the best course of action is always the action that results in the greatest good for the greatest number. It sounds simple in concept but like any general principle, the devil is in the details. What is the greatest good, and who are the greatest number, and what of the vanishing minority? What if you benefit very many in a slight way and transgress against one mightily? There are details that are troublesome to be sure. It can be worked out. There are many thought exercises one can go through, and when one delves into the details, a rational human will generally realize that utilitarianism in some form is the correct manner of all action. Detailing the exact form it will take is the real issue, not the benefit of the actual concept, as it essentially becomes logically a requirement for civilization, as you will soon see.
And so, what does any of this have to do with anything? Utilitarianism is a complex way of governing action. Each action has potentially a multitude of reations and results, and every individual human cannot always grasp the results of the courses of actions he pursues. And some humans even when they grasp the eventualities of their actions, do not embrace the concept of utilitarianism, and therefore have no problem causing ill upon many to benefit the few. Therefore various political contrivances are created which usually try or claim to approximate a utilitarian society. This is all good and well, but when one person looks at all of the radically different standards of behaviors within societies, one can conclude rapidly that these systems cannot be remotely close to perfect, or even effective for that matter. And in fact, what you really see, is that the greatest number of these systems are extremely flawed. And in some of the worst cases, there is not remotely an attempt to approximate utilitarianism, but in fact the opposite functionality is enforced, which is the subjugation of the many to greatly benefit the few. This is a problem.
Besides these pesky political problems, there is a massive looming problem which is rearing its ugly head. It was pointed out that intelligence is increasing exponentially on this planet. This is true. There are proponents of a concept, which has been dubbed the "The Technological Singularity", or to me, I would think a more accurate term would be "The Intelligence Singularity". This concept postulates that in the future, intelligence will continue to increase exponentially, and as more intelligence is created and harnessed, more power to increase intelligence is developed, and round and round this will go. Eventually intelligence is increasing at such a rate that to a common man of this era, the eventualities of that time would be incomprehensible. How far intelligence can increase is a question no one currently can answer, nor how long we need to wait to see these times. I personally do not believe the vast majority of people even realize this eventuality is possible, nor probable, and of those that do, a very minor number believe this can occur in the near future. I hope I am wrong, and people really do comprehend the magnitude of this issue, but I don't believe I am. At any rate, I am probably in that latter group, depending on how you define "near", as even I do not have a solid grasp on how I would define "near".
And so, some people may dismiss this as a sort of "Geek Rapture", or a sort of pseudo-religion for the nerds. However it is portrayed, it is not something that can be flippantly dismissed, it has to be taken seriously. The history of the earth is a guide, and this guide tells us that this has been occurring and will continue to occur. It is not a fluke. For whatever reason this universe has laws which initiate intelligence and prompt it to increase, no, demand it to increase. It's evolution, my dear Morpheus. We have a handful of problems or benefits coming our way, depending on how you look at it, and one of them is extremely advanced intelligence, learn it, live it, love it.
So it is clear that humans on this earth right now occupy the highest pedestal in terms of raw intelligence. Who knows who or what will bear that mantle in the future, but that is of lesser account. What is of great account, is that the highest intelligence on the planet inherits serious responsibilities. Deadly serious responsibilities. The foremost one being the survival of every lifeform on the earth. But also there is a responsibility to maintain the exponential intelligence curve, and then to ethically wield the intelligence in a manner consistent with utilitarianism, or at the very least in a manner that does not lead to the extinction of every intelligent being on the earth, if you have to really settle for bare bones. How can this be done? What happens when each and every individual super intelligent being on the earth has the knowledge within their brains or microprocessors or whatever the case may be, to single handedly destroy every lifeform on the planet? This will occur if intelligence continues to increase, and it is allowed to go into individuals hither and yon over the face of the earth. Each individual human becomes a potential doomsday device, as it becomes a matter of random probability then that with so many billions of individuals, any single one of them may choose to utilize their intelligence in a non positive manner. Or even a cataclysmic manner.
What to do, what to do? There is a concept, it is called the Fermi Paradox. It essentially states that with the number of planets in the universe, sheer probability states that we should have met up with an alien or ten by now. It is a compelling thought exercise. Why haven't we seen aliens? Do we really think we are the only intelligent beings in the entire universe? I believe the "Singularity" is the best answer to this paradox. Humans on this earth are at a knife's edge on the evolutionary curve, the knee of the curve if you will. It is the edge where nearby they will enter a radically new era with a completely different phase of existence, or maybe not. This new era is a form of existence so high that a current man could not recognize it if he could even detect it. So if you are looking for aliens, look there. The current phase of man's existence is a relatively short period. Within a span of decades or centuries, we will either pass out of it, or destroy ourselves. So in the greater scheme of things, all alien civilizations have taken the same path. They are not beyond the laws of the universe any more than we are, and are only in this phase whereby they can communicate or travel through the stars in a form recognizable to us for a very short time. Beyond that phase, they either evolve out of our detection, or they self destruct. So we don't see aliens.
When you think of things this way, the options really start to narrow down. The first option is obvious. If super-intelligence is allowed to proliferate unchecked among unrestrained individuals on the planet, with an insufficient governmental system in place to control the destructive actions of these beings, a massive destructive act upon the planet becomes ever more likely over time. The later the time period, the more capable the intelligence, and the potential for a more destructive act. This does not sound like a favorable eventuality. What other option is there? There is basically only one other option. The other option is to have the highest level of intelligence contained and controlled within a central entity, and have safeguards on it such that it adheres very tightly to a utilitarian model. This is beginning to sound like software, and contrived algorithms, and this is a super AI. In the future, the scientists and governmental leaders of the world will have to develop and maintain an artificial intelligence, that at all times stays ahead of every other intelligence on the planet. It can be programmed to eventually self maintain. If the humans begin to evolve rapidly due to genetic engineering or whatever is in vogue at the time, then the AI will have to stay a step ahead with whatever means it has at its disposal, be that to control and slow the advancement of the other intelligences, or to develop a step ahead of the competition. This is a scary thought for most people, to have a restraint system self contained within an AI. It is adverse to the concept of individual liberties in some ways, a concept which many people including myself hold dear. But individual liberty is an illusion. Even now, people realize that liberty does not include being able to wield a shotgun in a mall, or tossing strychnine in a water supply. Nor can any person walk into a store and help themselves to the contents without paying, or drive on a roadway without a driver's license. There are limits and constraints in every action, there is no real "Liberty" so to speak in most areas of the world. The systems in place are generally useful but flawed attempts to coerce people to a certain path. People have accepted it due to the logic of it all, without any system at all civilization is impossible, so we accept the imperfect and flawed systems.
Look even what we have now. The beginnings of AI control are coming into place. For example financial markets are largely controlled with software algorithms with automated currency and securities trading. When a news item hits such as a central bank move or the like, the markets move in unison, and individual securities move in unison, due to automated trading. These algorithms become more complex by the day, with PhDs programming ever more intensely to stay a step ahead of the next hedge fund or investment bank and vice versa. There are intelligence and counter-intelligence programs in existence to ferret out information from the internet or radio communications for governmental agencies, and so on and so forth. All of this will only intensify radically in the near future. It will become more intense, and additionally the destructive nature of these competitions will begin to seriously set back the progress of the human race, rather than encourage it to move forward as it does now, as the potential for destructive algorithms become more powerful, and the means to rectify their damage and control them becomes less.
A rational human can only come to one conclusion. These algorithms cannot be developed in a void, and they cannot be allowed in the future to continue to compete in a free for all pseudo survival of the fittest. It is a fool's game. Competition in the past was quaint and fun, it worked very well for humanity, and a few wars came and went here and there, but the race moved on after each dustup or economic calamity. But now it is deadly business. The highly advanced software and computing systems from the present can only be assumed to eventually merge into a massive AI system, and they all have to be written in a cooperative spirit, with a common goalset in mind. This is the concept of AI ethics. . There is too much power at stake to compete in this day and age. The AI ethics must restrain all AIs to conform to a single concept, i.e. the rapid advancement of mankind within a utilitarian framework, and the eventual realization of the blissful endtimes. No other intelligences can be allowed to rapidly evolve without control systems in place to prevent disaster. This includes rapidly evolved humans, nanotech, robots, AI agents, you name it. Consider these thoughts, and take this message to heart, the future will thank you.