Cambridge University to examine threat of AI

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Hal 9000

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”.

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  • http://twitter.com/dagelf Coenraad Loubser

    The funny thing is that we already have AI. The question mark surrounds I. Ie. Intelligence – or perhaps more accurately – true intelligence; because an intelligence with the memory of a computer will be much less “artificial” than ours. Plus I believe it can run on hardware as simple as the smartphones we all have; so even when it’s much smarter than us, it will perceive us as little of a threat as we do our pets.

    I think the first thing that computer intelligence will do is to make our lives a lot simpler and easier. Perhaps trade stocks much smarter and figure out more economical ways to run the economy. Humans will be very useful to it, so instead of you searching “Google” – “Google” will come searching for you… to do the things you love because it’ll know that you can do those things best…

    The only threat really, would be to have a dumbed-down computer intelligence that can be controlled by malicious humans – much the opposite of what is depicted in movies.

    People are very controlling – even in the movies we make we subconsciously try to reserve the right for us to have a reason to try to control a computer intelligence. I’d love to see a a real, realistic utopian movie containing a computer intelligence. Chances are it will be our reality pretty soon…

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