Still waiting for Skynet to become self-aware

Dismissing the implications of highly intelligent machines could be humankind’s “worst mistake in history”, write astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, computer scientist Stuart Russell, and physicists Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek in the Independent.

“Self-aware” machines have received the Hollywood treatment in the Johnny Depp film Transcendence, but the subject should receive serious consideration, they say.

Successfully creating artificial intelligence would be “the biggest event in human history”, they write, and the possible benefits for everyday human life are enormous. There could come a time, however, when machines outpace human achievement. If and when that day arrives, they wonder, will the best interest of humans still factor into their calculations?

“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand,” they write. “Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.”

And what are we humans doing to address these concerns, they ask. Nothing.

“All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks,” they conclude.

A while back, we wondered about the implications of machine journalists. But maybe we should just be thankful that at least something will be around to write long-form essays on the last days of humankind.

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