Why should we prepare for human-level AI now rather than when it’s closer?

Human-level AI may not be far in the future. Many top AI researchers think that human-level AI will be developed fairly soon, so urgency is warranted. Furthermore, waiting until the last second to start addressing AI risks is waiting until it's too late. Just as waiting to fully understand COVID-19 before taking any action would have been a mistake, it is ill-advised to procrastinate on safety and wait for misaligned AIs or bad actors to cause harm before taking AI risks seriously.

One might argue that since AIs cannot even drive cars or fold clothes yet, there is no need to worry. However, AIs do not need all human capabilities to pose serious threats; they only need a few specific capabilities to cause catastrophe. For example, AIs with the ability to hack critical infrastructure or create bioweapons would pose significant risks to humanity, even if they couldn't iron a shirt. Furthermore, the development of AI capabilities has not followed an intuitive pattern where tasks that are easy for humans are the first to be mastered by AIs. Current AIs can already perform complex tasks such as writing code and designing novel drugs, even while they struggle with simple physical tasks. Like climate change and COVID-19, AI risk should be addressed proactively, focusing on prevention and preparedness rather than waiting for consequences to manifest themselves, as they may already be irreparable by that point.