AGI doesn't have to be as mysterious and worrisome as we often imagine it to be. We are free to look at AGI any way we like; the bishops of AI orthodoxy have no authority over us regular folk.
Has it occured to you that each new technology startup is an embryonic AGI? BitOoda. Levelset. Pyka. RareCyte. You've probably never heard of these startups; I hadn't until a minute ago. I know nothing about them except that they're each an AGI play. Just like all the other tech startups.
It's easy to envision AGI as a computer that's vastly more intelligent than a human, with a mind of its own, running amok and ruthlessly locking us into servitude, Matrix-style. That might happen if we're not careful, but it's a fantastical and distant possibility that isn't useful right now.
A vastly more useful view is that AGI happens when we digitize humans out of our valued systems, and then those systems manage to survive without human intervention. Perhaps survive despite human interference.
This incremental digitization view is vastly more useful than the popular dystopian vision because it describes a phenomena that's happening today, has been happening for decades, and promises to continue indefinitely. Simply put, corporations, governments, and schools are all becoming increasingly digitized, requiring fewer people for the same impact as before.
In the stock market, we value companies like Tesla, Amazon, Google, and Apple. Each are increasingly digitizing and expanding their internal systems at the same time they are digitizing more aspects of everyone's lives. Highly-digitized startups, each needing fewer people than ever to achieve massive impact, are capturing the lion's share of venture capital.
I think we can all agree a fully digitized system would need a tremendous amount of intelligence to survive independently for any meaningful length of time. So how long must a digital system survive independently to be considered an AGI? How much of an AGI was it in the days, months, or years before it achieved independence? We'll have to figure this out.
Consider even McDonald's, which has been frantically digitizing its operations for years now. It might be a few decades until McDonald's becomes a fully digital self-sustaining system, but we already see robotic kitchens on the horizon. We aren't far from seeing a fully automated McDonald's marketing campaign; the tools are there. Management, training, and corporate backend are increasingly digitized. Add it all up, and McDonald's may already be between 2% and 20% of the way to a fully digital system, and thus that close to becoming an AGI.
Every corporation that is digitizing its core systems is a growing AGI. Apple. AT&T. Bed Bath and Beyond. Citibank. Caterpillar. Google. Huawei. Reddit. Walmart. The big ones are all progressing nicely toward AGI. Some, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, are on the fast track.
Between the tech startups and the ever-digitizing corporations, we're making thousands of simultaneous bets on AGI. Every startup is a new chance to win the ultimate prize. Every increasingly-digital business is cranking up their chances.
Human intelligence, or real general intelligence, was not the goal of evolution. Life evolved the same way as ever for a couple of billion years and eventually we happened. In the same sense, to achieve AGI we need only continue to digitize ourselves out of our systems and organizations. But we have to keep the ball rolling, and that might be the hard part.
So what's your tech startup idea?