Superintelligence as a Cause or Cure for Risks of Astronomical Suffering

This article originally appeared in Informatica Vol. 41 No. 4, December 2017.

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Discussions about the possible consequences of creating superintelligence have included the possibility of existential risk, often understood mainly as the risk of human extinction. We argue that suffering risks (s-risks), where an adverse outcome would bring about severe suffering on an astronomical scale, are risks of a comparable severity and probability as risks of extinction. Preventing them is the common interest of many different value systems. Furthermore, we argue that in the same way as superintelligent AI both contributes to existential risk but can also help prevent it, superintelligent AI can be both the cause of suffering risks and a way to prevent them from being realized. Some types of work aimed at making superintelligent AI safe will also help prevent suffering risks, and there may also be a class of safeguards for AI that helps specifically against s-risks.

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