We may dismiss artificially intelligent machines as the stuff of science fiction, but that could be the "worst mistake in history," according to an Independent article by a group of eminent scientists.
The scientists — including Cambridge University's Stephen Hawking, University of California at Berkeley's Stuart Russell and Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek — argue AI technology is close to becoming reality and has the potential to dramatically improve or destroy human life.
"Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history," wrote the scientists. "Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks."
"Little serious research is devoted to these issues outside non-profit institutes," the researchers said. "All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks."
Scientist Steve Omohundro also recently wrote about the potential dangers of intelligent machines — and brainy robots in particular — according to Dylan Love at The Business Insider.
"Omohundro lays out the case that the autonomous robots of the future 'are likely to behave in anti-social and harmful ways unless they are very carefully designed,'" said Love. "Autonomous robots will soon be 'approximately rational,' meaning that they will have a new degree of awareness of their goals and will take steps to ensure they can continue meeting them."
Love wrote that Omohundro explained an autonomous chess-playing robot, for example, could work to ensure humans would not unplug it (because it could not win chess games while unplugged) and even use violent actions to ensure nobody stopped it.
So what can people do to ensure intelligent machines don't go berserk? Some scientists try to solve the problem by teaching machines human ethics, reported Emma Woollacott at New Statesman.
But that's difficult, according to professor Noel Sharkey of the University of Sheffield, the New Statesman article said.
"I can't see ethical robots happening in my lifetime," Sharkey said. "There might be some sort of big breakthough, I suppose, but otherwise I don't expect to ever see any great advance towards robots as moral agents doing ethical things."
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