Moonshot: ‘The AI civilization will expand into space’

“It is clear that they are going transcend us,” says world-renowned pioneer in deep learning and neural networks, Jürgen Schmidhuber. “I have no doubt in my mind that within the next few decades, no one can say exactly when, for the first time we will have AI that is comparable to human intelligence and then very soon after that, superhuman.”

Jürgen Schmidhuber, Scientific Director of Swiss AI Lab IDSIA, has been called the father of modern AI. The deep learning methods developed in his labs are already at play in the products and services of companies such as Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Baidu. As president of NNAISENSE, Schmidhuber is leading a company which aims to develop the first practical general-purpose AI.​​

Jürgen Schmidhuber, Scientific Director of Swiss AI Lab, speaking at the AI for Good Global Summit

Schmidhuber’s ‘moonshot’ keynote address to the AI for Good Global Summit looked to the stars.

Self-improving AI is “essential to the future of AI,” says Schmidhuber. “In the near future … they are going to learn how to improve the learning algorithm itself; self‑improve without any computational limits.”

And where might this self-improving AI lead?

“AIs are going to realize what we realized a long time ago, that most of the resources are not in our thin film of biosphere but out there in space.” Earth receives less than one-billionth of sunlight, with the remaining energy escaping our grasp. “It’s not going to stay like that,” says Schmidhuber.

“The AI civilization is going to set its own goals and expand in a way where humans cannot follow.” Travelling by radio at lightspeed, “they are going to cover, within a few hundred thousand years, and it is going to start in this century, … the entire galaxy.”

Speaking to the future of humanity, Schmidhuber’s view was unequivocal: “We are not going to stay the crown of creation, that’s clear.”

“But we can still feel beauty in being part of this grander process. The universe wants to make its next step towards high complexity.  This is much more than another industrial revolution. This is something that is comparable to the invention of life itself 3.5 billion years ago. A new type of life is going to emerge from the biosphere in a way that we won’t be able to follow. And the universe wants to become intelligent, and it is a privilege to live at a time where we can witness the beginnings of that and contribute something to that.”

Watch Jürgen Schmidhuber’s keynote address from 1:02:00 to 1:17:20 in the archived webcast of the summit’s opening session.

The first day of the AI for Good Global Summit set the stage for the event’s discussions of AI’s potential to address challenges such as hunger, poverty and the protection of our environment. Learn more from the Day 1 highlights video.

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