Superintelligence Cannot be Contained: Lessons from Computability Theory

Main Article Content

Manuel Alfonseca
Manuel Cebrian
Antonio Fernandez Anta
Lorenzo Coviello
Andrés Abeliuk
Iyad Rahwan


Superintelligence is a hypothetical agent that possesses intelligence far surpassing that of the brightest and most gifted human minds. In light of recent advances in machine intelligence, a number of scientists, philosophers and technologists have revived the discussion about the potentially catastrophic risks entailed by such an entity. In this article, we trace the origins and development of the neo-fear of superintelligence, and some of the major proposals for its containment. We argue that total containment is, in principle, impossible, due to fundamental limits inherent to computing itself. Assuming that a superintelligence will contain a program that includes all the programs that can be executed by a universal Turing machine on input potentially as complex as the state of the world, strict containment requires simulations of such a program, something theoretically (and practically) impossible.

This article is part of the special track on AI and Society.

Article Details