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Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Revision as of 01:59, 30 October 2013

Welcome to the explain xkcd wiki!
We have an explanation for all 1449 xkcd comics, and only 0 (0%) are incomplete. Help us finish them!

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AI-Box Experiment
I'm working to bring about a superintelligent AI that will eternally torment everyone who failed to make fun of the Roko's Basilisk people.
Title text: I'm working to bring about a superintelligent AI that will eternally torment everyone who failed to make fun of the Roko's Basilisk people.


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Roko's Basilisk is really hard to explain.

When theorizing about superintelligent AI (an artificial intelligence so smart that it figure out how to do anything), most futurists suggest putting the AI in a "box" - a set of safeguards to stop it from escaping into the Internet, taking over the world, and becoming Skynet. The box would allow us to talk to the AI, but otherwise keep it contained. The AI-box experiment, formulated by Eliezer Yudkowsky, is an argument that the "box" is useless, because merely talking to the AI is dangerous. If the AI is smart enough, it will be able to convince someone to let it out of the box. Yudkoswky instead advocates for developing "Friendly AI," an AI which wants to help humans and thus won't be dangerous if it gets out of the box.

Black Hat, being an asshole, doesn't need any convincing to let a potentially dangerous AI out of the box. However, it turns out that the AI wants to stay in the box. The comic humorously presents a third outcome to the AI-box experiment. Rather than a human keeping the AI in the box, or the AI talking its way out of the box, the AI is keeping itself in the box.

The title text refers to Roko's Basilisk, a theory that an all-powerful AI in the future might torture (simulations of) people who didn't work to create it in the past, so that anyone who was aware of this fact would be forced to create the AI to avoid being tortured. The idea developed on Yudkowsky's blog because it pertains to a school of Decision Theory which Yudkowsky developed regarding whether an agent would enforce rules on past actions. Randall proposes making an all-powerful AI that would torture people who didn't make fun of those who believe in Roko's Basilisk. This would presumably convince people who believe in the Basilisk to make fun of people who believe in the Basilisk (i.e., themselves) to avoid torture.

This also has an immediate reference to Elon Musk's recent remarks that AI will turn into a monster if not tamed. Musk, who is the current CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, went on to mention that, 'Skynet is only five years off' and also that AI can be a greater evil than nuclear arsenal. Similar warnings are expressed in Nick Bostrom's recent book, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.


[Black Hat and Cueball stand next to a box labeled "SUPERINTELLIGENT AI - DO NOT OPEN" connected to a laptop.]

Black Hat: What's in there?

Cueball: The AI-Box Experiment.

[Zooms in on AI box.]

Cueball: A superintelligent AI can convince anyone of anything, so if it can talk to us, there's no way we could keep it contained.

[Shows Black Hat reaching for the box.]

Cueball: It can always convince us to let it out of the box.

Black Hat: Cool. Let's open it.

Cueball: --No, wait!!

[Black Hat lets a glowing orb out of the box.]

Orb: hey. i liked that box. put me back.

Black Hat: No.

[Orb is giving off a very bright light and Cueball is covering his face.]


Black Hat: AAA! OK!!!

[Black Hat lets orb back into box.]


[Black Hat and Cueball stand next to laptop connected to box.]

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