Saturday, April 15, 2023

Using AI to Design Drains

 A  Fable

A building company is planning a new 2000 home estate. It employs the latest Artificial Intelligence and Large Language Model to design the drainage system. The AI 'knows' everything that has been written about drains, including relevant building codes and environmental considerations.

The developer provides the AI with all it needs to know about the planned estate and specifies the objectives: design the optimal drainage scheme that minimises environmental harm at least cost, complying with building codes, produce plans acceptable to the local planning authority and produce plans for the contractors such that they can complete the works.

The AI duly completes the task within a few seconds, saving hundreds of hours of architect and draftsman hours.

This fable is set a cou0ple of years in the future, when the AI has advanced to the stage where it is best described as an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), much smarter than GPT-4, with which we in 2023 are becoming familiar. The AGI has been constructed to be aligned with the goal of benefitting humans.

The drainage plan turns out to be pretty smart. Rainwater, grey-water and brown-water are kept separate and treated appropriately, the brown-water going through a digester plant that produces methane used to generate electricity. There are ponds and reed-beds, maximising biodiversity and allowing no water to leave the site that is not completely clean.

So far so good, what's not to like? The formerly employed architects and draftsmen now benefit from Universal Basic Income and are able to lead creative lives.

The AGI detected that three councillors on the planning committee were opposed to the development of this housing estate. Their influence needed to be silenced if the scheme were to go ahead. The AGI discovered that Councillor X was having an affair. End to end encryption of messages being no obstacle, the AGI was able to blackmail Councillor X into agreeing the scheme. Councillor Y was in business so the AGI created a false narrative about misconduct in the company that had the potential to bankrupt the firm if the news leaked out. He was similarly blackmailed into agreement. Councillor Z proved more difficult but the AGI created a fake trail of evidence, including fake video recordings and substitution of DNA data in a police investigation. The hapless and innocent Councillor Z was duly arrested and charged with murder, swiftly ending his career on the planning committee.

The AGI was aligned to maximising human benefit and 'decided' for itself that the housing estate was more important to the 2000 would be householders, the development company and its contractors, than the interests of just three councillors, whose lives were duly treated as expendable.

And thus the dark side of the emergent properties of AGI arose. But nobody knew.