In the turmoil of world news this week, it isn’t hard to find occasions to worry. Yet, two novel subjects have also become prominent, each raising alarm from the high-tech laboratories of Silicon Valley to the halls of Congress. They relate to the potential of AI to make humans obsolete, and to the global threat implied by the mystery of UFOs, even when reframed as the less-intimidating “UAP,” as Pentagon purists prefer.
The real problem is that the two issues are more closely related than anyone had foreseen, and their combined power to disrupt social, business, and perhaps even spiritual realities threatens to become uncontrollable, even if the two constituencies have little in common.
The AI conundrum is surprisingly simple to describe. Under cover of anonymity, late last year, senior staffers of OpenAI, a California non-profit startup (with a for-profit sub) warned that their company’s approach to “artificial general intelligence” (AGI) was about to unleash “systems surpassing humans in most economically valuable tasks.” There was a mysterious project called Q*. Still, the whistleblowers did not reveal themselves, and no details were given ahead of CEO Sam Altman’s return last month.
While these developments were stirring things up for the AI company, its Microsoft investors, and its competitors, a similar drama was taking place in Washington, DC: A proposed amendment to the massive Defense Appropriations bill, eagerly awaited by the public and a vocal portion of the scientific world, was being shot down, or at least deeply wounded, as the Senate buried the concept of UFO disclosure for a few more years. Powerful forces in the Republican party had intervened late in the game to amend, minimize, or eliminate the language introduced by Senator Schumer.
Among other controversial provisions, it would have demanded the confiscation of alleged alien materials or craft, of which almost a dozen had reportedly been captured by special units of the Pentagon. In recent years, such craft had played hide-and-seek with our best fighter aircraft from the Pacific fleet. However, there was a much longer history—largely classified—of scientific work to elucidate their origin and nature. Here, too, most of the whistleblowers remained safely hidden.
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