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Future predictions

Lovre Pešut

The final part of the blog series “The Future of Artificial Intelligence: The Power of Intelligence” will begin with a key question: How far are we from realizing such systems in our world?

Suppose we had a thousand years before any machine with a human-level cognition, then these things would not lose all of their relevance, but their relevance would be more akin to Johannes Kepler’s writing about traveling to the Moon in the 1600s rather than a concern we ought to make an everyday one.

In the 2022 Expert Survey on Progress in AI run by AI Impacts, which surveyed AI scientists who published papers at top AI conferences in 2021, and asked about their timelines for “high-level machine intelligence”, which was defined as the time when ‘unaided machines can accomplish every task better and more cheaply than human workers’.

The aggregate forecast time to a 50% chance of high-level machine intelligence was 37 years from 2022. Notably, the median respondent’s probability that the long-run effect of advanced AI on humanity will be “extremely bad (e.g., human extinction)” was 5%.

Source: AI Art with Midjourney

There has also been some more direct quantitative modeling work. Ajeya Cotra, in her 2020 report on AI timelines, used biological anchors — such as the estimated total computational power of the human brain — to forecast ‘transformative AI’ — transformative AI here referring to a potential future AI which precipitates a transition comparable to (or more significant than) the agricultural or industrial revolution. Her bottom-line estimate was:

  • roughly 15% probability of transformative AI by 2036. and
  • a median of ~2050 for transformative AI.

In 2022, Cotra posted a two-year update to her timelines, informed (among other things) by the latest advancements in AI. Her revised bottom-line estimates were:

  • roughly 15% probability of transformative AI by 2030 (35% by 2036) and
  • a median of ~2040 for transformative AI.

In the next part of this series, The intuitive machine, we are going to take a detailed look at what exactly happened in AI over these last few years, and what do those developments imply about our future.