Friendly Artificial Intelligence (Friendly AI) is an area of research in artificial intelligence ethics, focusing on designing AI systems that, if they become superintelligent, will positively benefit humanity and align with human values, to ensure the well-being of humanity.


Imagine if your smart toy always helps you, protects you, and plays nicely with you, no matter how smart it gets. Sometimes it might become super smart, more than your parents, but it always listens to you and doesn’t harm you. That’s what we hope Friendly AI would be like.

In-depth explanation

Friendly Artificial Intelligence is a concept and goal that seeks to ensure artificial intelligence developments result in beneficial outcomes. The term “Friendly AI” was primarily developed by Eliezer Yudkowsky, co-founder of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute, to address the potential risks of superintelligent AI.

The goal of Friendly AI is creating an AI that uses its intelligence to have a positive impact on humanity, should it develop to the point of superintelligence. This does not simply mean programming an AI to be ’nice’, but encompasses a far more challenging and critical task: ensuring that the AI’s optimization process results in beneficial actions, even when the AI has self-improved to the point of superintelligence.

Producing Friendly AI requires careful consideration of initial conditions and the alignment problem. The initial conditions include the AI’s original programming and the problem-solving methods it uses. The alignment problem refers to aligning the AI’s values and goals with those of humanity. For example, if an AI’s objective is poorly defined, it may find hazardous ways to reach it, like the “Paperclip Maximizer” thought experiment, where an AI converts all matter in the universe into paperclips because it was told to maximize paperclip production.

Additionally, value loading problem is intrinsic to Friendly AI. It’s about how to infuse values into AI systems, especially when values are often complex, sometimes contradictory, and evolve over time. The paradox of hedonism and political instability caused by disruptive technologies are other worrisome factors that need to be addressed in implementing Friendly AI.

While the concept sounds reassuring, it has critics. Some claim that “friendliness” is anthropomorphic and prone to misinterpretation, and that it’s impossible to align a superintelligent AI with human values due to their inherent complexity and our limited understanding of them. Despite these difficulties, pursuing Friendly AI is seen as crucial, considering the high-stakes problems arising from harmful superintelligent AI scenarios.

Alignment Problem, Superintelligence, Value Loading Problem, Optimization Process, Machine Ethics, Utility Function, Instrumental Convergence, Orthogonality Thesis