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Which came first: the chicken or the egg?
The age-old question, finally answered. Kind of.
- It's one of the oldest—and easiest to picture—philosophical conundrums of our time.
- It can be best answered by combining two of the most popular takes on it.
- Even so — there's a reason the question has been asked for at least 2,000 years.
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It's the kind of question children ask each other on the playground in a bid to blow minds. Others include "Could your color red be my color blue?" and "How do I know the world exists outside my mind?" and "What is the meaning of life and all that stuff?"
Turns out, children are natural philosophers, comfortably tackling the problems doctorate-brandishing philosophers have been debating for centuries — albeit without the highfalutin language. Can we describe qualia to others? Can we epistemologically attest for consciousness outside our own minds? Is there a telos the universe?
Each of these questions deserves exploration, but as the headline suggests, today we'll be exploring the enduring predicament of chickens and eggs. Here's your guide to finally understanding the chicken-and-egg problem.
The problem in an eggshell
Flickr, Creative Commons
All chickens hatch from eggs, and all eggs are laid by chickens. This fact is nothing special; everything depends on a preexisting something for its existence. Schoolyard bewilderment sets in when our imaginations trace this line of thought back as far as possible.
Where did the first chicken come from? It came from an egg. Okay, where did that egg come from? It came from a chicken. Fair enough, but where did that chicken come from? An egg. And that egg? A chicken. And on and on, until we get bored and decide to swing on the monkey bars.
This is called infinite regression: the initial link in the causal chain (chickens come from eggs) is supported by the truth of a second link (eggs come from chickens), but that proposition can only be true if the first one is beforehand. It's the logical equivalent of standing between two mirrors so that infinite yous extend on forever.
Infinite regression inevitably leads to a dilemma. Everyday experience tells us that no effect can occur without an initial cause. But the chicken-and-egg problem makes it impossible to tell cause from effect. Each relies on the other, but it is logically unsatisfactory to say history is an endless cycle of chickens and eggs.
So which one was first?
The philosopher’s chicken
Creative commons: John Towner.
Plutarch was the first person to describe the chicken-and-egg problem, writing in his Symposiacs: "Soon after [Alexander] proposed that perplexed question, that plague of the inquisitive, Which was first, the bird or the egg?" The gathered symposiasts then debate the matter, but the discussion quickly moves beyond metaphorical chickens and eggs to tackle the "great and weighty problem" of "whether the world had a beginning."1
While Plutarch gave the problem its favored form, the tradition of questioning first causes goes back to at least the Ancient Greeks. The Greeks realized that the world, the universe, and everything must have had a beginning, but what caused it to come into being? And even if you solve that, what caused that cause to come into being?
Aristotle answered this causal quandary with the "unmoved mover" — an eternal, motionless substance or energy that can neither come into nor go out of existence yet started the causal chain that led to the universe.
Framing Aristotle's concept in the language of the chicken-and-egg problem, let's call this unmoved hen Chicken Prime. Far more than Optimus's cowardly sibling, Chicken Prime is the initial chicken that began the causal chain of all chickens and eggs to come. But unlike other chickens, Chicken Prime requires no cause to explain her existence. She did not come into being, but has always existed out of rational necessity.
As you can see, this unmoved mover is a short hop away from the Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of God, and for this reason, Aristotle was favored by many influential medieval philosophers. Thomas Aquinas drew from Aristotle to develop his five arguments for the existence of God, called the Five Ways.
As summarized in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, the first two of these five arguments go like this: "Motion is only explicable if there exists an unmoved, first mover" and "[t]he chain of efficient causes demands a first cause."2 The first argument is cribbed directly from Aristotle. The second solves the chicken-and-egg problem if you accept its premise.
An infinite chain of causes demands a foundational cause, and for Aquinas, that foundation is God. According to Genesis, God created animals first, so the chicken came first. More importantly, God stands as the initial cause for all things. This is called the first-cause argument.
Of course, the first-cause argument is not without its detractors. Bertrand Russell argued that the very argument contradicts itself. If every event must have a preceding cause, he argued, then the very idea of a first cause would be contradictory.2 It is logical sleight of hand.
The scientist’s egg
The philosopher's chicken is metaphorical, so let's restate the question from a technical perspective. Which came first, actual chickens or actual eggs? At this juncture, scientific evidence allows us to solve the problem. The answer, it turns out, is the egg.
Modern birds evolved from small, carnivorous dinosaurs. The first intermediate species between birds and therapods, such as Archaeopteryx, lived during the late Jurassic, and the true ancestor of birds probably arrived during the late Cretaceous.3 This lineage tells us that birds evolved much later than dinosaurs or ancient reptiles, both of which laid eggs. As such, the egg must have come first.
But this answer sidesteps the question, doesn't it? What we really want to know is: Which came first, the chicken or the chicken egg? Even phrased liked this, the egg wins out.
Chickens have a labyrinthine genealogy. The earliest fossil evidence for the species' domestication appears in northeastern China and dates to around 5,400 BCE; however, the chicken's wild ancestors were likely the junglefowl of southeast Asia.
Its primary progenitor includes the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus), but scientists have identified other species that bred with G. gallus on its way to chickenhood. One of them, the grey junglefowl of southern India, is thought to have given the modern chicken its yellow skin — leaving scientists befuddled as to whether chickens were domesticated in southeast Asia before spreading outward, or if their progenitors were domesticated in several locations before being brought together.4
Either way, the chicken lineage is one of many wild and domesticated fowl being interbred. At one point in this history, two chicken-like birds — let's call them a proto-rooster and proto-hen — mated, and the proto-hen laid a clutch of eggs. One of these eggs housed an offspring with DNA mutations, resulting in what we would consider the first chicken.5
In time, this offspring's offspring would diverge enough for speciation, but since the proto-hen produced the egg the chicken was born from, we can safety say the egg came first.
Or, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson succinctly put it: "Just to settle it once and for all: Which came first the Chicken or the Egg? The Egg – laid by a bird that was not a Chicken[.]"
Chicken Prime or the Cosmic Egg?
Thanks to science, we know the egg came before the chicken, but we haven't really settled the debate that led Plutarch to raise the question millennia ago.
We've discovered many links in the causal chain of the universe. We know that life on Earth came to be through a process called evolution and that the Earth accreted from rocks and debris orbiting the Sun and that the Sun formed when gravity pulled in immense amounts of dust and gas together and that the universe sprang forth from a high-density, high-temperature state. But that's as far back as we can manage.
As astrophysicist Paul Sutter wrote: "Earlier than 10^-36 seconds, we simply don't understand the nature of the universe. The Big Bang theory is fantastic at describing everything after that, but before it, we're a bit lost. Get this: At small enough scales, we don't even know if the word 'before' even makes sense!"
Even with our accumulated knowledge, there's always another link in the causal chain, another first cause in need of a mover, another egg in need of a chicken.
As such, children and philosophers can still get mileage out of the chicken-and-egg problem. They just need to tweak the wording a bit. How about this: Which came first, Chicken Prime or the Cosmic Egg?
1. Symposiacs (Book II: Question 3). Plutarch. The University of Adelaide Library. Last updated Dec. 17, 2014. Retrieved on Aug. 10, from https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/p/plutarch/symposiacs/complete.html#section15.
2. Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Simon Blackburn. Oxford University Press; Oxford. 2008. Pg. 135.
3. The origin of birds. Understanding Evolution, UC Berkley website. Retrieved on Aug. 9, from https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_06.
4. How the chicken conquered the world. Andrew Lawler and Jerry Adler. Smithsonian.com. Retrieved on Aug. 9, from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-the-chicken-conquered-the-world-87583657/
5. FYI: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Daniel Engher. Popular Science. Retrieved on Aug. 9, from https://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/fyi-which-came-first-c
- Which Came First, the Galaxy or the Black Hole? - Big Think ›
- What Happens When An Artist Thinks Like a Scientist? Better Chicken ›
How would the ability to genetically customize children change society? Sci-fi author Eugene Clark explores the future on our horizon in Volume I of the "Genetic Pressure" series.
- A new sci-fi book series called "Genetic Pressure" explores the scientific and moral implications of a world with a burgeoning designer baby industry.
- It's currently illegal to implant genetically edited human embryos in most nations, but designer babies may someday become widespread.
- While gene-editing technology could help humans eliminate genetic diseases, some in the scientific community fear it may also usher in a new era of eugenics.
Tribalism and discrimination<p>One question the "Genetic Pressure" series explores: What would tribalism and discrimination look like in a world with designer babies? As designer babies grow up, they could be noticeably different from other people, potentially being smarter, more attractive and healthier. This could breed resentment between the groups—as it does in the series.</p><p>"[Designer babies] slowly find that 'everyone else,' and even their own parents, becomes less and less tolerable," author Eugene Clark told Big Think. "Meanwhile, everyone else slowly feels threatened by the designer babies."</p><p>For example, one character in the series who was born a designer baby faces discrimination and harassment from "normal people"—they call her "soulless" and say she was "made in a factory," a "consumer product." </p><p>Would such divisions emerge in the real world? The answer may depend on who's able to afford designer baby services. If it's only the ultra-wealthy, then it's easy to imagine how being a designer baby could be seen by society as a kind of hyper-privilege, which designer babies would have to reckon with. </p><p>Even if people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can someday afford designer babies, people born designer babies may struggle with tough existential questions: Can they ever take full credit for things they achieve, or were they born with an unfair advantage? To what extent should they spend their lives helping the less fortunate? </p>
Sexuality dilemmas<p>Sexuality presents another set of thorny questions. If a designer baby industry someday allows people to optimize humans for attractiveness, designer babies could grow up to find themselves surrounded by ultra-attractive people. That may not sound like a big problem.</p><p>But consider that, if designer babies someday become the standard way to have children, there'd necessarily be a years-long gap in which only some people are having designer babies. Meanwhile, the rest of society would be having children the old-fashioned way. So, in terms of attractiveness, society could see increasingly apparent disparities in physical appearances between the two groups. "Normal people" could begin to seem increasingly ugly.</p><p>But ultra-attractive people who were born designer babies could face problems, too. One could be the loss of body image. </p><p>When designer babies grow up in the "Genetic Pressure" series, men look like all the other men, and women look like all the other women. This homogeneity of physical appearance occurs because parents of designer babies start following trends, all choosing similar traits for their children: tall, athletic build, olive skin, etc. </p><p>Sure, facial traits remain relatively unique, but everyone's more or less equally attractive. And this causes strange changes to sexual preferences.</p><p>"In a society of sexual equals, they start looking for other differentiators," he said, noting that violet-colored eyes become a rare trait that genetically engineered humans find especially attractive in the series.</p><p>But what about sexual relationships between genetically engineered humans and "normal" people? In the "Genetic Pressure" series, many "normal" people want to have kids with (or at least have sex with) genetically engineered humans. But a minority of engineered humans oppose breeding with "normal" people, and this leads to an ideology that considers engineered humans to be racially supreme. </p>
Regulating designer babies<p>On a policy level, there are many open questions about how governments might legislate a world with designer babies. But it's not totally new territory, considering the West's dark history of eugenics experiments.</p><p>In the 20th century, the U.S. conducted multiple eugenics programs, including immigration restrictions based on genetic inferiority and forced sterilizations. In 1927, for example, the Supreme Court ruled that forcibly sterilizing the mentally handicapped didn't violate the Constitution. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes wrote, "… three generations of imbeciles are enough." </p><p>After the Holocaust, eugenics programs became increasingly taboo and regulated in the U.S. (though some states continued forced sterilizations <a href="https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/" target="_blank">into the 1970s</a>). In recent years, some policymakers and scientists have expressed concerns about how gene-editing technologies could reanimate the eugenics nightmares of the 20th century. </p><p>Currently, the U.S. doesn't explicitly ban human germline genetic editing on the federal level, but a combination of laws effectively render it <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">illegal to implant a genetically modified embryo</a>. Part of the reason is that scientists still aren't sure of the unintended consequences of new gene-editing technologies. </p><p>But there are also concerns that these technologies could usher in a new era of eugenics. After all, the function of a designer baby industry, like the one in the "Genetic Pressure" series, wouldn't necessarily be limited to eliminating genetic diseases; it could also work to increase the occurrence of "desirable" traits. </p><p>If the industry did that, it'd effectively signal that the <em>opposites of those traits are undesirable. </em>As the International Bioethics Committee <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jlb/advance-article/doi/10.1093/jlb/lsaa006/5841599#204481018" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote</a>, this would "jeopardize the inherent and therefore equal dignity of all human beings and renew eugenics, disguised as the fulfillment of the wish for a better, improved life."</p><p><em>"Genetic Pressure Volume I: Baby Steps"</em><em> by Eugene Clark is <a href="http://bigth.ink/38VhJn3" target="_blank">available now.</a></em></p>
The father of all giant sea bugs was recently discovered off the coast of Java.
- A new species of isopod with a resemblance to a certain Sith lord was just discovered.
- It is the first known giant isopod from the Indian Ocean.
- The finding extends the list of giant isopods even further.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider to be unnatural.<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU2NzY4My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTUwMzg0NX0.BTK3zVeXxoduyvXfsvp4QH40_9POsrgca_W5CQpjVtw/img.png?width=980" id="b6fb0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2739ec50d9f9a3bd0058f937b6d447ac" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1512" data-height="2224" />
What benefit does this find have for science? And is it as evil as it looks?<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7XqcvwWp" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="8506fcd195866131efb93525ae42dec4"> <div id="botr_7XqcvwWp_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7XqcvwWp-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7XqcvwWp-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The discovery of a new species is always a cause for celebration in zoology. That this is the discovery of an animal that inhabits the deeps of the sea, one of the least explored areas humans can get to, is the icing on the cake.</p><p>Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who co-authored the species' description, explained the importance of the discovery:</p><p>"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region." </p><p>The animal's visual similarity to Darth Vader is a result of its compound eyes and the curious shape of its <a href="https://lkcnhm.nus.edu.sg/research/sjades2018/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow" style="">head</a>. However, given the location of its discovery, the bottom of the remote seas, it may be associated with all manner of horrifically evil Elder Things and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu" target="_blank" rel="dofollow">Great Old Ones</a>. <em></em></p>
Workaholism is perhaps the most socially accepted addiction, but a new paper shines light on the serious health risks that accompany it along with which occupations are most at risk.
- Work addiction is a growing public health risk in industrialized nations, with some research showing that 5–10% of the United States population meet the criteria.
- Workaholism comes with a variety of serious mental and physical health concerns such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, lowered immunity, substance abuse, or even chronic fatigue.
- Employees at the highest risk for stress-related disorders are those in what researchers call the "tense" group category where job demand is high but job control is low, such as healthcare workers.
Who are 'workaholics'?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwOTEwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTcxMjY5M30.co95ejt7ASPynFNcdlE2fcswuSGDo2GXWiAikYckAec/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C524%2C0%2C524&height=700" id="cfa87" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb50d89ae92c35858327efaf5b125d51" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Credit: AdobeStock<p>Workaholism is a behavioral disorder in which someone who typically works seven or more hours extra than others per week. Financial instability, marital problems, or pressure from a company or supervisor could all be reasons for working more hours than average. The difference is that workaholics are excessively involved in work when their employer doesn't require or expect as much time as the individual is putting into the job. </p><p><strong>Symptoms of work addiction include:</strong> </p><ul><li>Putting in long hours at work, even when not needed</li><li>Losing sleep to engage in work projects or finish tasks</li><li>Obsessiveness with work-related success</li><li>Feelings of intense fear of failure at work</li><li>Sacrificing personal relationships because of work or using work as a way of avoiding relationships </li><li>Working to cope with feelings of guilt, depression, or shame </li><li>Working to avoid dealing with personal crises like death, divorce, or financial trouble. </li></ul>
Four types of work environments<p>The researchers wanted to demonstrate the extent to which risk of workaholism is associated with the perception of work, i.e. job demands and job control, and mental health in four job categories frameworked in the <a href="https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1999-01436-001" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Job Demand-Control-Support model (JDCS)</a>. </p> <p>This model assumes four work environments broken into four quadrants in which employees likely experience different levels of job demands and job control, control being the extent to which an employee feels agency and control over their work. They are: </p> <ul><li>Passive (low job control, low job demand) </li><li>Low-strain (high job control, low job demand) </li><li>Active (high job demands, high job control) </li><li>Tense or Job Strain (high job demands, low job control) </li></ul> <p>People with "passive" jobs may find satisfaction as long as the worker reaches a set of goals. Those in the "low strain" job group are not at high risk for mental health problems as the category typically corresponds to creative or imaginative jobs such as researchers. "Active" are usually highly skilled professionals with a high amount of responsibilities, such as directors of companies. Though they have demanding tasks, they usually have high levels of decision making to solve problems. Employees at the highest risk for stress-related disorders are those in the final "tense" group where demand is high but control is low. Examples include healthcare workers from emergency departments who cannot control the huge workload or flux.</p>
The study<p>The study was conducted in France, an industrial country with a growing number of occupations. The scientists collected data from 187 out of 1580 French employees who volunteered to participate in a cross-sectional study, which was conducted using the online platform WittyFit software. Participants were self-administered four questionnaires: the Job Content Questionnaire by Karasek, the Work Addiction Risk Test, the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale, and socio-demographics. The researchers in the study divided all the participants on the basis of their occupational quadrants to investigate the relationship between work addiction risk and mental and physical health. </p><p>"One of the novelties of this research was to introduce vulnerable occupational groups to organizations or job holders. For example, if we find that work addiction risk can be found more in some occupations and may result in negative outcomes for the health situation then we can give this information to decision makers in this organization or, for example, to the ministry of health. And they could intervene to prevent this problem," explained Morteza Charkhabi, associate professor at the Institute of Education at the HSE University, in a press release.</p>
Results: Who is at risk?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="30f796cab87a35cf9af35ea1999e8b11"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/sXy_iSUd5SE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The research results found that jobs with high demands are the most strongly associated with work addiction risk, however the level of job control doesn't play as influential of a role.</p><p>Individuals in active and high strain job categories are more likely to be at risk for work addiction than the other job groups. These workers appeared to be more vulnerable and, thus, suffer more, from the negative results of work addiction risk such as depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, and other health issues such as a weakened immune system and increased risk of disease.</p>"We found that job demands could be the most important factor that can develop work addiction risk," <a href="https://www.hse.ru/en/org/persons/211299142" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Charkhabi</a> pointed out. "So this factor should be controlled or should be investigated by the organization's manager, for example, HR staff, psychologists. Also another conclusion could be the job climate like job demands of each job category can influence the rate of work addiction risk. Thus in this study we actually focused on external factors like job demands not internal factors like the personal characteristics."
Side-effects of work addiction<p>The scientists found that those with higher work addiction risk have twice the risk of developing depression as compared to people with low work addiction risk. Additionally, sleep quality was lower in workers with high risk of work addiction compared to workers with low risk of work addiction. Interestingly, women had almost twice the work addiction risk than men.</p><p>Work addiction can be difficult to treat in a culture that accepts and rewards workaholic behaviors. The most common approach for treating work addiction typically involves outpatient treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or Motivational Interviewing (MI). <a href="https://www.projectknow.com/behavioral-addictions/work-addiction/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">You can learn more here.</a></p>
Max Planck Institute scientists crash into a computing wall there seems to be no way around.
- Artificial intelligence that's smarter than us could potentially solve problems beyond our grasp.
- AI that are self-learning can absorb whatever information they need from the internet, a Pandora's Box if ever there was one.
- The nature of computing itself prevents us from limiting the actions of a super-intelligent AI if it gets out of control.
Why worry?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwNzc3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTYyMDE5MX0.EN9QQ0BTIiHBvD3XJ0D1n2OhmCOfzyf40MocBiV6Y68/img.jpg?width=980" id="b2c31" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a098b63a4e14d0f7b7eaa792af0f76ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="682" />
Credit: @nt/Adobe Stock<p>"A super-intelligent machine that controls the world sounds like science fiction," says paper co-author <a href="https://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/staff/manuel-cebrian" target="_blank">Manuel Cebrian</a> in a <a href="https://www.mpg.de/16231640/0108-bild-computer-scientists-we-wouldn-t-be-able-to-control-superintelligent-machines-149835-x?c=2249" target="_blank">press release</a>. "But there are already machines that perform certain important tasks independently without programmers fully understanding how they learned it. The question therefore arises whether this could at some point become uncontrollable and dangerous for humanity."</p><p>The lure of AI is clear. Its ability to "see" the patterns in data make it a promising agent for solving problems too complex for us to wrap our minds around. Could it cure cancer? Solve the climate crisis? The possibilities are nearly endless.</p><p>Connected to the internet, AI can grab whatever information it needs to achieve its task, and therein lies a big part of the danger. With access to every bit of human data—and responsible for its own education—who knows what lessons it would learn regardless of any ethical constraints built into its programming? Who knows what goals it would embrace and what it might do to achieve them?</p><p>Even assuming benevolence, there's danger. Suppose that an AI is confronted by an either/or choice akin to the <a href="https://bigthink.com/culture-religion/trolley-problem-solution" target="_blank">Trolley Dilemma</a>, maybe even on a grand scale: Might an AI decide to annihilate millions of people if it decided the remaining billions would stand a better chance of survival?</p>
A pair of flawed options<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwNzc5MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NzM3NDQ2Mn0.0GYCRvvo--LWLlRkpxm1fYxEWjK8DWyMSuU-bLdhtlE/img.jpg?width=980" id="044f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="51461cc1dc19049c7803d4908ccf11dc" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="1080" />
Credit: Maxim_Kazmin/Adobe Stock<p>The most obvious way to keep a super intelligent AI from getting ahead of us is to limit its access to information by preventing it from connecting to the internet. The problem with limiting access to information, though, is that it would make any problem we assign the AI more difficult for it to solve. We would be weakening its problem-solving promise possibly to a point of uselessness.</p><p>The second approach that might be taken is to limit what a super-intelligent AI is capable of doing by programming into it certain boundaries. This might be akin to writer Isaac Asimov's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics" target="_blank">Laws of Robotics</a>, the first of which goes: "A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm."</p><p>Unfortunately, says the study, a series of logical tests reveal that it's impossible to create such limits. Any such a containment algorithm, it turns out, would be self-defeating.</p>
Containment is impossible<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUwNzc5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzA0NDM1Mn0.ukZgrtJYO_SyrMH21-Y_UTanTh4fJjHtTCdXTsQBOA8/img.jpg?width=980" id="e2ad4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9e146d1a69b254c88e5c62e36a87450d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1440" data-height="753" />
Credit: UncleFredDesign/Adobe Stock<p>"If you break the problem down to basic rules from theoretical computer science, it turns out that an algorithm that would command an AI not to destroy the world could inadvertently halt its own operations. If this happened, you would not know whether the containment algorithm is still analyzing the threat, or whether it has stopped to contain the harmful AI. In effect, this makes the containment algorithm unusable."</p><p>The team investigated stacking containment algorithms, with each monitoring the behavior of the previous one, but eventually the same problem arises: The final check halts itself, rendering it unreliable.</p>