A new research center at the UK’s prestigious Cambridge University has been set up to investigate the potential threat presented by Artificial Intelligence.
The research will likely go beyond watching the Terminator series of movies on repeat, otherwise a whole center would be unnecessary. The Center for the Study of Existential Risk is set to open next year and is founded by philosophy professor Huw Price, Skype co-founder Jann Tallinn and cosmology professor Martin Rees.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Price said that “it seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology”.
When that happens, he says, we will no longer be the smartest things around and run the risk of being at the mercy of “machines that are not malicious, but machines whose interests don’t include us.”
For those of you not paying attention, that’s the central theme of pretty much every sci-fi story involving AI ever told.
Price adds that the concern shouldn’t be written off as cheap sci-fi fodder and could actually turn out to be very real:
It tends to be regarded as a flakey concern, but given that we don’t know how serious the risks are, that we don’t know the time scale, dismissing the concerns is dangerous. What we’re trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community.
If the center gets its message across right maybe, just maybe, we won’t find ourselves hearing the words of 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s Hal 9000: “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”.