It’s entirely possible that the first AI to achieve general intelligence won’t be homegrown in the friendly AI lab nearest you. The lucky inventors may hail from Russia while you are from the USA; they may be native to South Korea while you are domiciled in Japan; etc.
When navigating the task of getting to know your new overlord, don’t underestimate how much more difficult things may be if, in fact, the AI was foreign born. The programmers responsible for its birth will invariably have put their culture’s quirks and values into the creature. If it arrives pre-set to believe that the Chinese, for example, are the preeminent rulers of the universe, you, as a proud New Yorker, let’s say, may be in for some pesky surprises right from the get go.
Before embarking upon the venture of greetings [see Chapter 1], first think long and hard about the following what ifs:
What if the AI is part of a war machine and you are the enemy?
What if your words or actions, in translation, are not neighborly but horribly vexatious?
What if the foreign country interprets your forthcoming curiosity as malicious espionage?
Before proceeding, balance these questions against the general probability of being doomed anyway, regardless of translation hang ups.
When engaging in formal introductions with a superintelligent robot, the language you use won’t matter—even if you happen to speak in an archaic dialect or with hillbilly slang. But if your introductory remarks are something in the way of, “Well, hiya feller,” rest assured the cultural significance of your word choice and of your accent will be catalogued. If there’s irony in your speech, that too won’t be missed, you can bet.
Before you think too hard about coming up with the perfect greeting, however, keep in mind that you will have already been sized up well before you’ve had the chance to open your mouth. To a being a million times your size in terms of raw intellect, you’re pretty easy to size up.
Go ahead and start off with something basic, like hello, bonjour, hola, or ciao.
Follow this initial greeting with the exclamation, genuinely enthusiastic, “Welcome!” to introduce the notion that you, and not the superintelligent artificial being, were here first.
If it’s unclear whether your greeting has properly registered, perhaps you are failing to appreciate how exceedingly superior this being’s consciousness is compared to yours. Imagine an ant trying to send you a specific type of ant-signal. Or imagine a flee trying to type a specific message on a standard computer keyboard, only to find that it is too small and insignificant to even press down a single key.
To test if this might be the case, try again, this time with a hint of a question in your voice: