Who 'ya gonna call?

When Richard Gallagher, a board-certified psychiatrist and a professor of clinical psychiatry at New York Medical College, described his experiences treating patients with demonic possession in the Washington Post claiming such incidents are on the rise, it was met with derision by many newspapers' commenters.  Typical was "this man is as nutty as his patients. His license should be revoked."

Less likely to have his intellectual credentials questioned by the sophisticates of the Washington Post is Elon Musk who warned an audience that building artificial intelligence was like "summoning the demon".

I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he’s like — Yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.

The press has a hard time describing what this "demon" looks like because its vocabulary is still largely rooted in the 20th century. When the Huffington Post explained the apocalyptic predictions of "two Nobel prize-winning scientists, a space-age entrepreneur, two founders of the personal computer industry — one of them the richest man in the world" that "humans will lose control of intelligent machines and be enslaved or exterminated by them" it still used the term "machines" as if the threat were posed by one of the gears threatening Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times.

The actual danger is more abstract.  As Mike Loukides and Ben Lorica point out in an excellent O'Reilly article the true threat is the emergence of a generalized intelligence which left to itself can explore the world and form ideas independently -- possibly very different from our own. "We haven’t yet created an artificial general intelligence that can solve a multiplicity of different kinds of problems," they write.

We still don’t have a machine that can listen to recordings of humans for a year or two, and start speaking ... our best current efforts are far from a general intelligence that is flexible enough to learn without supervision, or flexible enough to choose what it wants to learn, whether that’s playing board games or designing PC boards.

Unsupervised learning is a hard problem, and it’s not clear that it can be solved just by throwing more hardware at it. We’re still looking for a “master algorithm” that may not exist.

How does the press warn the public about demons arising from a "master algorithm" without making it sound like a magic spell?  With great difficulty because the actual bedrock of reality may not only be stranger than the Narrative supposes, but stranger than it can suppose.  Roger Penrose thinks a "master algorithm" capable of true consciousness cannot exist in our classical corporal bodies.  Starting from the idea that "Gödel-unprovable results are provable by human mathematicians. He takes this disparity to mean that human mathematicians are not describable as formal proof systems, and are therefore running a non-computable algorithm." This noncomputable algorithm could reside in the boundary between the quantum and classical worlds.

In quantum mechanics ... the system appears to collapse to a random eigenstate of that observable from a classical vantage point. ... If collapse is truly random, then no process or algorithm can deterministically predict its outcome. This provided Penrose with a candidate for the physical basis of the non-computable process that he hypothesized to exist in the brain. ... states are selected by a "non-computable" influence embedded in the Planck scale of spacetime geometry. Penrose claimed that such information is Platonic, representing pure mathematical truth, aesthetic and ethical values at the Planck scale. This relates to Penrose's ideas concerning the three worlds: physical, mental, and the Platonic mathematical world

The idea of a mysterious quantum world whispering Platonic truths to humans through some other biological mechanism changes the architecture of consciousness dramatically. If as some researchers argue, intelligence is everywhere and the universe is full of sentience,  the question of whether we are independent of external influences inevitably occurs.  Did nature create us as standalone meat computers without a network card?

"Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, thinks ... consciousness" is all around us; it "arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be [conscious]. That’s just the way the universe works."   If the universe works just like the Internet where's the ethernet jack?