I use the term “biological superintelligence” to refer to superhuman intelligences that have a functional architecture that closely resembles that of the natural human brain. A biological superintelligence does not necessarily have an organic substrate.
Biological superintelligence includes:
- Brain emulations/mind uploads: Also called “digital people” by Holden Karnofsky. Fine-grained software copies of natural human brains. Could be digitally enhanced (e.g. by increasing the number of neurons) to attain higher intelligence.
- Brain implants/brain-computer interfaces: Devices under development by companies such as Neuralink, Kernel, Openwater, and Meta’s Reality Labs. Could hypothetically enhance human intelligence.
- Brain simulations/neuromorphic AI: Coarse-grained software simulacra of natural human brains that capture enough of the brain’s functional architecture to produce intelligent behaviour. Could be digitally enhanced to exceed limitations of the natural human brain.
- Bioengineered superbrains: Organic human brains enhanced with biotech, such as genetic engineering, to achieve a higher level of intelligence. Larger brains (and skulls) could be engineered, for example.
Biological superintelligence is a solution to AI safety because it solves the alignment problem and the control problem by avoiding them entirely. Provided, of course, biological superintelligence is created before AGI.
How can we ensure biological superintelligence is created before AGI? Could subhuman AI assist in this goal? Probably, but how much? It partly depends on how slow and smooth the takeoff to AGI is. If AI smarter than AlphaFold 2 and GPT-4 but dumber than AGI can accelerate science and engineering, that boon could be directed toward creating biological superintelligence. In the ideal case, the situation would look something like this:
Biological superintelligence is an alternative approach to AI safety to the more standard approach of AI alignment research. I believe it is an underrated and relatively neglected approach, in spite of its promise.