Bots for Humanity

99 percent of technological progress by modern humans came in the last 10,000 years. We took tens of thousands of years to settle down, after a period of global migration. Once we did, we discovered ways to cultivate plants, around 12,000 years ago, discovered metals, around 8,000 years ago, and started writing things, around 5,000 years ago. Each of these phases helped us bring mankind together through teaching, with the last phase being one that allowed us to pass ideas on beyond the lifetime of the teacher.

It is in this passing of information through generations of teaching that has lead us to arrive at the technologically advanced times that we live in today but ever growing risks from existential threats are pacing towards us at a rate much faster than that of the progress of our countering efforts. Finding better and faster solutions to some of mankind’s most pressing issues may be beyond the capacity of collective human minds. In the wake of an Artificial Intelligence explosion, could mankind be saved by heroic bots, created to discover the solutions we can’t?

Last month, a neuroscience-inspired, Artificial Intelligence company called Circle AI, collaborated with WPP to create a conversation bot for the United Nations. The aim of the bot was to get citizens to track the daily progress of 10 actions that were identified as positive acts we can all take to help tackle climate change.

The initiative was first put forward by Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG). He said: “The challenge to humanity that climate change represents is of such epic proportions that only through collective global action will we have a chance to combat it successfully. Every single human being on our severely stressed planet has to take responsibility.”

Circle AI Chief Executive and AI Research Engineer, Jason Hadjioannou said: “Mitigating the devastatingly catastrophic effects of climate change and tackling other existential threats to Humans and planet Earth, may take the someday invention of Artificial General Intelligence. But today we can make a start by creating Artificial Intelligence systems and AI agents that help.”

The United Nations’ conversation bot, named the ActNowBot, was announced by Sir David Attenborough at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland on the 3rd December 2018.

Speaking about the project, Sir David Attenborough said: “We all know climate change is a global problem – and that it requires a global solution. This is an opportunity for people from across the globe, regardless of their nationality or circumstances, to be part of most important discussion of this century: the unprecedented action needed to reach the Paris Agreement targets.”

London-based, Circle AI provides conversational AI tech to organisations like Facebook Inc and the UN. Circle also concerns itself with contributing R&D efforts towards the exploration of ideas around Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), crediting some of the inspiration for concepts on conversational AI to the ideas and work of British-American philosopher and cognitive scientist, Dr Peter Carruthers and his theories in human cognition – specifically quoting: “there is a type of inner, explicitly linguistic thinking that allows us to bring our own thoughts into conscious awareness. We may be able to think without language, but language lets us know that we are thinking.”

Hadjioannou cites motivation for wanting to contribute towards advancing the field of AGI, as coming from the notion that solutions to some of mankind’s greatest problems may be beyond that of Human minds, instead someday emerging from the limitless ingenuity and advanced cognitive ability of artificial minds.

With Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook recently commenting that Apple’s “most important contribution to mankind will be in health” it seems there is a burgeoning trend to look deep into the future of cutting-edge technology for ways to save humanity. And this is reassuringly exciting!