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How Hard is Artificial Intelligence? Evolutionary Arguments and Selection Effects

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Several authors have made the argument that because blind evolutionary processes produced human intelligence on Earth, it should be feasible for clever human engineers to create human-level artificial intelligence in the not-too-distant future. This evolutionary argument, however, has ignored the observation selection effect that guarantees that observers will see intelligent life having arisen on their planet no matter how hard it is for intelligent life to evolve on any given Earth-like planet. We explore how the evolutionary argument might be salvaged from this objection, using a variety of considerations from observation selection theory and analysis of specific timing features and instances of convergent evolution in the terrestrial evolutionary record. We find that, depending on the resolution of disputed questions in observation selection theory, the objection can either be wholly or moderately defused, although other challenges for the evolutionary argument remain.
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Document Type: Research Article

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Publication date: 2012-01-01

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