A major part of the artificial intelligence revolution—“AGI,” or artificial general intelligence—is now rapidly coming to the fore, writes Alexander Hamilton Institute board member Dean Ball.  The situation suggests that “all of the disruption and tumult wrought by AI could happen on a more compressed timeline than I had expected, say, one year ago.”

AGI means “highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work” in the digital realm. Developers are “close to striking breakthroughs” in this aspect of AI, Ball reports. For example, a recently announced new language model will be able to use up to about 7.5 million words simultaneously—comparable to having the entire U.S. tax code in active working memory at the same time.

“Many people assumed that the first AGI would be roughly equivalent to an average person,” Ball notes in this latest piece for his online newsletter Hyperdimensional. But it now seems possible “that the first AGI will … far exceed the vast majority [of] or even all humans in some important respects.”
Ball, who manages the Hoover Institution’s State and Local Governance Initiative and thus has substantial policy experience, continues to oppose a highly regulatory approach by government to most aspects of AI, but stresses that we must nonetheless face the challenge it presents:

“I want this technology to exist and to be widely dispersed throughout the world,” he writes. “I created [Hyperdimensional] partly to push back on regulations that I worry will constrain AI before it can find its place in society. But I have also consistently said that AGI/ASI [artificial superintelligence] is likely to be the most challenging, and potentially destabilizing, technological transformation humanity has ever faced.”

Indeed, threats to social order such as a war, another pandemic, widespread blackouts due to an increasingly fragile electrical grid, or “a fiscal crisis caused by our unsustainable federal debt” could occur just as “AI is transforming the labor market (potentially resulting in at least temporary mass unemployment), radically empowering individuals with capabilities … previously only available to well-resourced corporations, and further disrupting our collective truth-finding procedures. That does not sound like a recipe for political stability.”