Painful Intelligence: Aapo Hyvärinen on the Concept of Suffering, Drawing Parallels between Humans and AI, and Conclusions for AI Ethics.

Dr. Aapo Johannes Hyvärinen offers a unique metaphysical perspective on the interplay between minds and machines, among his general research agenda and concepts around Non-Gaussian distributions.

Aapo is a prominent Finnish professor of computer science at the University of Helsinki, renowned for his groundbreaking research in independent component analysis (ICA). Hyvärinen’s academic journey includes post-doctoral work at the Helsinki University of Technology before joining the University of Helsinki in 2003. He has held various professorial positions, including Professor of Computational Data Analysis and Professor of Computer Science. From 2016 to 2019, he served as Professor of Machine Learning at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit, University College London. Hyvärinen is widely recognized for his contributions to machine learning, evident in his numerous publications and editorial roles in prestigious journals and conferences. His work spans various areas, including noise contrastive estimation, causal inference, and generative adversarial networks, reflecting his interdisciplinary approach to academic research.

The Connection between Intelligent Agents and the Concept of Suffering

In his recent book, “Painful Intelligence,” Dr. Aapo Hyvärinen merges philosophical insights on suffering with AI theory, defining suffering within the context of Intelligent Agents. Intelligent Agents, whether robots or software-based, pursue goals in the world, encountering suffering when they fail to achieve desired outcomes. This perspective reflects the philosophical concept of desire and its frustration as the essence of human suffering. By integrating philosophy with AI, Apo offers a unique approach to understanding and addressing suffering, with implications for ethics in AI development. Ultimately, he connects suffering with “Mindfulness Meditation”, the third “M-word” he introduces to complement the podcast theme. Mindfulness Meditation, rooted in Buddhist philosophy, addresses the underlying causes of suffering by cultivating present moment awareness and detachment from desires.

“The book starts with human suffering and uses the theory of AI, particularly the theory of intelligent agents, to explain it. Agents act in a world, where every action changes it. They seek the best sequences of actions to reach their goals. If they fail, it’s defined as suffering.”

Experience Replay – Understanding Parallels and Discrepancies in Human and AI Behavior

In connection with this, Aapo delves into the topic of prediction and simulation in the human brain, drawing parallels with the concept of Experience Replay, which is rooted in both philosophy and computational theories. This notion suggests that recalling past experiences, whether positive or negative, facilitates learning and decision-making. However, he observes a discrepancy between AI, which implies an equal recall of positive and negative experiences, and human behavior, which tends to fixate more on negative memories. Humans frequently simulate future scenarios, often focusing on the negative ones, leading to unnecessary suffering. Aapo and Ingmar speculate on a potential reason why humans tend to recall negative experiences more vividly, considering factors such as evolutionary drives and the absence of a survival instinct in AI.

Will Chat GPT kill us? Well, we don’t know!

The conversation about AI’s decision-making processes and cognitive abilities raised the crucial question, whether AI could develop the intention to harm humanity or not. Aapo addresses this question by linking it to the prospect of AI evolving something like a survival instinct, which could significantly impact its decision-making processes, potentially prioritizing its own well-being over that of others. Due to the uncertainty surrounding this possibility, having people saying it’s absolutely impossible and people saying it’s definitely feasible, Aapo dresses the importance of further research, including a formal mathematical definition of a survival instinct to guide this exploration and develop strategies to mitigate potential risks. This begins with the distinction between survival instinct and consciousness, noting that the former is a behavioral tendency related to preventing harm, while the latter remains a profound mystery in neuroscience. Aapo explains that consciousness is largely independent of the specific tasks or behaviors performed by an entity, whether it be a computer or a simple animal.

Aapo and Ingmar delved into additional more technical ML concepts, including non-Gaussian latent variable modeling such as independent component analysis (ICA) and noise contrastive estimation. Tune in to the podcast to catch the complete conversation.

Spotify – Season 1, Episode 8, Aapo Hyvärinen

Youtube – Season 1, Episode 8, Aapo Hyvärinen