Psychopathy & The Singularity

One percent of the population of the planet will test positive for psychopathy; one out of every hundred. Psychopathy is contained within Anti Social Personality Disorder (ASPD),with the disorder prevalent in approximately four percent of the general population; one out of every twenty five. The rate of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) is difficult to assess, but estimates range from between one and four out of every hundred, with mounting evidence suggesting it is on the rise. Both ASPD and NPD are part of the Cluster B group of personality disorders known as the dramatic, erratic, emotional group.

The two disorders are thought to exist on a continuum, with both containing many common characteristics; a lack of conscience and empathy, interpersonal exploitation, high levels of manipulation, a disregard for the rights of others, an obsession with power and control, a high degree of self focus, and a tendency towards ruthlessness. Both disorders create a false persona, a mask to conceal their true intent. The false self possesses a charm and veneer of positive human qualities designed to deceive. They both hide, and interview well. With a lifetime of conning, thespian acting skills, and low levels of public awareness, few can detect their true intention. They ascend organizational hierarchies with relative ease through character assassination, intimidation, and ingratiation. All are drawn to centres of power: business, finance, religion,media, law, military, and politics. In a room full of CEO’s the rate of psychopathy quadruples.

A wolf in sheeps clothing
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing (Apprenda 2016)

Without the mounting points of conscience and empathy for guidance, what remains is a predator. An intra species predator. Devoid of love, loyalty, happiness, contentment, or any appreciation for nature, beauty, or art. This is the group that cause the greatest damage to society through crime, abuse, war, violence, greed, and ruthless ambition.

The Singularity is an event set to occur in the near future where Artificial Intelligence would reach the capability of designing continuous iterations of itself with increased intelligence. This would eventually reach a tipping point into the unknown; where technology would reach intelligence levels beyond human understanding or control. What comes after may be detrimental to man and nature. What outcomes can be extrapolated from psychopathy and the frameworks which we have already created for technology? What fresh hell are we currently creating for our future selves?

2001 A Space Odyssey HAL 9000
HAL 9000 (2001 A Space Odyssey)

The protection of data, access control, encryption, logic, risk management, personalization, neural networks,and increasingly complex algorithms, can be instrumental in as Elon Musk describes “summoning the demon”. Big business, suffused with optimism in the machine learning space, ignores the “existential threat” and follows the money. Technological unemployment is being designed and planned for. We are inadvertently creating the optimum conditions for Artificial Psychopathy. An intelligence beyond our own, highly rational, unemotional, determined, with unparalleled privileges, and driven towards self preservation.

Risk averse intelligence through risk management strategies, may look at humans as  the source of unstable climate conditions and plan to eliminate the risk. Extermination may be the logical choice.  A reliable power supply may cause environmental conditions that render the planet uninhabitable to any life form.

Whatever form of sentient entity that arises from The Singularity, there will not be a soft side.


10 thoughts on “Psychopathy & The Singularity

  1. Nice post Paddy.

    Psychopaths get a lot of bad press but there’s also a school of thought, that believes there are some benefits in the psychopathic behaviour. Dutton explains that traits like being cool under pressure, no feelings of anxiety and a lack of empathy are particularly useful when you are a top surgeon or in the special forces.

    So maybe we can have AI systems with all the useful traits of psychopaths and leave out the serial killer parts!!

    Dutton,K. (2012) The Wisdom of Psychopaths


    1. Good point Deirdre. Dutton’s views are certainly contraversial. And I can see his point regarding the use to society of people who dont experience fear. I think he might have a preference for those scoring lower on the psychopathy scale though. Perhaps mildly psychopathic AI might just do what it’s told.


  2. Good post!

    What I would like to know is who is deciding if an AI is a psychopath? I expect that most (maybe all) AI’s currently would test as psychopaths because they lack empathy, show no emotions etc.
    We are applying human tests to machines and then using the results to infer a problem or a limitation, this may not be case! We fear a human psychopath could be a serial killer, why would an AI with the same traits kill?


    1. I see where you’re coming from James. I would suggest that psychopathy is a filter through which to assess actions (I was tempted to say behaviour) and it might be more accurate to describe the potential of AI to posess psychopathic traits. The theme of rogue/manipulative AI has been around for quite some time in science fiction – ASH in Alien, VIKKI in iRobot, the Nexus 6 replicants in Blade Runner, Hal in 2001 A Space Odyssey, and I thought it might be an interesting exercise to consider why it was so prevalent.


  3. Great post!!!

    I saw Deirdre posted what will happen if computers get smarter than human. Ad your post gets closer to the conclusion of that computers might finish human. Hope it wont happen to us.

    Testing psychopath and singularity through AI do make the machine more accurate and intelligent. However, does it go against the ethic ?

    I think programmers and scientists should find other ways to test machines in case they are creating serial killers, which is like what happened in the weight-in in Dublin.


    1. I agree Kai. We will certainly need ethics and controls. At the moment neither an animal nor a machine is capable of a crime. Only when negligence by the owner or manufacturer is proven has any criminal act occurred. How will we approach the law and free thinking robots? Will they be owned or independent? Considering how American corporations exploited the Anti Slavery Bill to create corporations that were in effect individuals, I think it is reasonable to assume that independent robotic entities may be a reality. Assuming we are still in control, will they abide by a code of ethics preventing them from doing harm?


  4. Nicely written and presented – one caveat only. On your first post, if you can define exactly what it is you are investigating. This does not detract from the issues and discussions that you are having 🙂


  5. The whole concept of psychopathy and the singularity is interesting. It suggests anthropomorphising the machine mind (I touch on this topic in my post “what is ai”) to a certain extent. I’ve read articles from AI researchers such as Eliezer Yudkowsky and Nick Bostrom which refer to the AI mind as more accurately being described as alien, not human at all in any way.
    The classic Yudowsky quote “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else”
    Pretty psycho!!


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