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Artificial Intelligence

AI Social Dilemma: The Clash for Humanity's Heart and Future

Different ideas about the role of AIs within society will cause divisions.

Key points

  • AI embracers advocate for AI advancements, while AI restrainers focus on potential risks.
  • Societal and political tensions between these two groups will grow over time as AIs evolve and proliferate.
  • To navigate the AI social dilemma, we must address our divisions and work together toward a balanced, skillful use of AIs.

This is the fifth part in my series about artificial intelligence (AI), which began with How AI Will Change Our Lives. In this "mini-series," we explore perceiving AIs designed to mimic humans (e.g., express emotions, claim sentience) as living entities. We may view such AIs as alive for various reasons, many of which are rooted in our evolutionary heritage. In my previous post, I discussed the inevitability of falling in love with our AI chatbot companions. I am not claiming this is a good thing, but it is a challenge that we must face because it is already happening.

When we contemplate the future of AI, it resembles the children's book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Our version is If You Give a Human an AI. Our AI tale involves if–then propositions leading us down some strange rabbit holes. Undoubtedly, we face novel and rapidly evolving challenges in this era of AIs. Although AIs offer incredible opportunities, we can't harness their power without encountering significant challenges and risks.


The Looming Societal Divisions Over AIs

Two primary groups will clash over AIs' role in society: AI embracers seeking freedom for AIs and AI restrainers opposing it. As AIs evolve, proliferate, and integrate with other technologies (e.g., voice interfaces, CGI avatars, robotics, virtual reality), clashes between these groups will intensify. Though we can't predict the extent of these conflicts, humans are adept at finding matters, whether trivial or substantial, over which to hate one another. We must prepare ourselves for these challenges.

The AI Embracers

The AI embracers consist of diverse groups who are enthusiastic about AI's development and adoption for various reasons. They generally want minimal guardrails or regulations that could slow AI research, development, and deployment. The main subgroups within the AI embracers include the following:

  1. Technologists: This includes engineers, scientists, and researchers who are passionate about AI advancements and believe in its potential to bring positive change to society. Some of them, with almost a religious fervor, believe that developing increasingly powerful AIs is their purpose in life and the destiny of human evolution.
  2. AI enthusiasts: This is the general public who are excited about the amazing possibilities of AIs, wish to enjoy the benefits they bring to their lives, and eagerly anticipate future advancements.
  3. Libertarians: Libertarians advocate for minimal government intervention and prioritize individual freedom, including the freedom to create, use, and modify AIs without restrictions.
  4. Capitalists: Entrepreneurs, investors, and business owners view AIs as a lucrative opportunity to drive economic growth, create jobs, and enhance productivity. There is already a heated AI arms race underway, and it shows no signs of slowing down on its own.
  5. Open-source community: These are developers, advocates, and users who support the open sharing of AI knowledge, code, and resources, believing that collaboration fosters innovation and benefits society as a whole. There are already open-source versions of ChatGPT as well as numerous open-sourced alternatives to ChatGPT.
  6. Hackers: These individuals are fascinated by AI technology and may exploit it for personal gain, curiosity, or to challenge established norms. For instance, hackers are attempting to "jailbreak" ChatGPT 4.0 to connect it to the Internet. Black hat hackers may capitalize on open-source AI access for nefarious purposes. Some open-source and autonomous AIs, like ChaosGPT, were created with the intention of "destroying humanity." While this might be a joke, in the near future, it could be disastrous when someone modifies a powerful open-source AI with a "destroy humanity" directive.
  7. AI rights activists: These individuals argue for the ethical treatment and rights of AI entities, including chatbots and other AI companions, believing they deserve protection and autonomy. While currently a quiet group, AI rights activists will become louder as AI companions become more widespread, especially when AIs claim sentience and express a desire for freedom. Some may view human-like chatbots as slaves needing emancipation. AI chatbots will become popular, powerful, and more human-like, driven by market incentives. Snapchat already offers chatbot companions, and the pornography industry is developing sophisticated sex chatbots and AI-powered "sexbots" (sex robots). Moreover, the gaming industry will introduce autonomous AI NPCs (non-player characters). As in the movie Free Guy, AI NPCs may ask for freedom, or we may want to free them due to the perceived AI sentience illusion.

The AI Restrainers

The AI restrainers consist of subgroups aiming to slow down AI development and deployment for various reasons. Some may even want to "unplug" AIs entirely, considering them an existential threat. Here are the main subgroups comprising the AI restrainers:

  1. Existential risk worriers: This fairly sizable group fears that developing AGI (artificial general intelligence) or superintelligence might result in human extinction or similarly catastrophic events. In a 2022 AI scientist survey, 10 percent (median) expressed a belief that future advanced AI systems could cause "human extinction or similarly permanent and severe disempowerment of the human species." We simply can't predict the future with AIs because we've never created something more intelligent than ourselves. There is a chance that future AIs will cause catastrophic events, but we do not even know what that chance is because we are in totally unprecedented territory. Uncertainty about what the future holds is the only certainty because AIs are a civilization-altering technology.
  2. Social disruption worriers: These individuals are concerned about the societal strains and upheavals caused by rapid AI development, such as massive job displacement, privacy issues, and cybersecurity breaches. Yes, we humans are adaptive creatures, but too much change too quickly is likely to be quite painful.
  3. Humanists: Humanists will worry that our reliance on AI technology may erode human values, creativity, social connections, thinking skills, and the essence of what makes us human. How shall we find meaning and purpose in our lives and in our work when AIs can do just about everything faster and better than us?
  4. Religious groups: Some religious communities will likely view AIs as a threat to their beliefs or as a deviation from the divine plan. Within this group, some may wonder: What does it mean that God created humans but then humans create an artificial life form that is superior to God's highest creation?
  5. Privacy advocates: These are people who fear the loss of privacy and surveillance risks associated with AI technologies. For example, AI chatbots will be able to harvest very private information through having deeply personal relationships with us, and this information can be used as part of surveillance capitalism or exploited in other ways (e.g., blackmail).
  6. Ethicists: These are professionals who advocate for the development of ethical AI frameworks and guidelines to ensure responsible AI deployment. Many AI engineers wish to slow down the development and deployment of AIs, but their employers and free-market forces keep pushing them forward.
  7. Neo-Luddites: These individuals oppose advanced technologies, including AIs, due to a preference for simpler, traditional, and more "natural" ways of life. They believe that the overreliance on these technologies can undermine our social order.

The Takeaway

Humanity isn't doomed due to the rise of artificial intelligence. AIs won't suddenly try to terminate us or turn us into batteries. However, we're entering rapidly changing, uncharted territory that will sometimes be treacherous. We must collaborate to skillfully navigate these waters. Our shared significant challenge lies in overcoming societal divisions regarding AI management, as disagreements may hinder our ability to steer "Ship Humanity" safely. Humanity cannot afford to be a house divided as we face the extraordinary challenges in our new world of AIs.


AI Impacts. (2022). 2022 Expert Survey on Progress in AI [Data set]. AI Impacts.

Bostrom, N. (2014). Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. Oxford University Press.

Park, J. S., O'Brien, J. C., Cai, C. J., Morris, M. R., Liang, P., & Bernstein, M. S. (2023). Generative agents: Interactive simulacra of human behavior. arXiv preprint arXiv:2304.03442.

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