AI, security, and the future are commonly discussed in science fictions and entertainment works. Detroit: Become Human, Sony’s recent PlayStation 4 adventure game which leads players to discover AI’s relationship with humanity and consciousness, has received positive feedback from both critics and players. But tech companies are not usually seen discussing the issue, as most consider the topic distant from reality.

Nevertheless, Cheetah Mobile, China’s mobile internet company known for apps and security technology, believes that a consensus on human’s intention in AI needs to be reached as early as possible.

On September 19, Fu Sheng, CEO of Cheetah Mobile, invited Professor Max Tegmark, Professor of Physics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of book Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, to the company’s headquarter in Beijing, for a short discussion.

Being able to realize a person’s face in around one second and show registered personal information on a screen on the entrance gate, Cheetah Mobile’s office building seems to be signaling an approaching all-AI era.

Professor Tegmark believes a key for the discussion on AI’s future is humanity’s future. While it takes time for any superintelligence to be born, AI’s purpose, if there is any, should serve the ultimate purpose of mankind. This thought must go beyond AI Luddites’ concerns that see AI’s production efficiency as a threat to human labor’s rights of making a living.

“It’s about winning the race with our technology. We can learn lessons from fire. But as for powerful technology [such as AI], we can’t expect the same. [It’s like] we don’t [want to] learn from nuclear weapons. We should think in advance and do right,” Professor Tegmark asserted. “Instead of asking what will happen, we need to ask what we want to happen.”

“Humankind is merely one actor in the grand history of nature and the world. . . The history of us, from my perspective, is a decentralization process where we reduce our weights as the center of things,” Fu said.

Fu and Professor Tegmark’s concerns, as expert voices from the tech field, are showing growing integration with social sciences’ research and study of human being’s realization of identity.

As Michel Foucault mentioned in the Subject of Power that his objective “has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects.” Human beings are pushed to the edge to decide what meanings they shall embed to the AI subjects they intend to create.

However, what Fu and Professor Tegmark didn’t get enough time to talk in depth was the debate over whether there is a universal value for AI. From the definition of “lethal” to the dividing of any possible binary good-and-bad, even the consensus itself requires huge effort to draw boundaries across cultures and civilizations.

Meanwhile, challenges to human nature before an all-AI ear, when AI and aggressively advancing technology is significantly improving production efficiency and reducing some crimes’ opportunity costs, are another problem.

As being human in the age of non-artificial intelligence is still a demanding effort to accomplish, a higher-goal which requires a well-argued human state of mind in the age of artificial intelligence asks for more.

Runhua Zhao is a technology reporter based in Beijing. Connect with her via email:

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