Artificial intelligence: a real concern?

In December last year Professor Stephen Hawking upgraded his communication software system, allowing him to connect more easily with others.  This event was remarkable for three reasons:

Firstly, we found out the new technology is so good he could have had a more realistic ‘human’ voice, including a British accent, but Professor Hawking chose to keep his ‘speak and spell’ voice because he considers it his trademark.

Secondly, Professor Hawking used the publicity around the new software launch to predict that artificial intelligence could spell the end for the human race!

That comment inspired me to write this hilarious joke on twitter, which was criminally ignored at the time:

Stephen Hawking Tweet

I really am wasted on you lot.

It wasn’t just me that was ignored, though.  Because the third reason the launch event was remarkable, is that nobody paid the slightest bit of attention to what Professor Hawking said.

Here’s a clip of the BBC News interview Professor Hawking gave last December:

At the time of writing it’s got just over 170,000 views.  A paltry 170,000 people could be bothered to watch a five minute interview where one of the most famous and celebrated scientists in the world explains how the whole of human civilisation could come to an end within our lifetimes!

Honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself…

It’s not entirely your fault though.  You see our feeble human minds simply aren’t capable of understanding the huge potential of artificial intelligence.

This is you:

Distorted View of Intelligence - 1

And this is you in about 25 years:

Distorted View of Intelligence - 2

All the cleverest people in the world are pretty much agreed that the exponential growth of computing power means artificial intelligence will supersede the human brain well within our lifetime.

The only real questions are when it will happen, and whether this new superintelligence will be good or bad for humankind.  Will it find a way to eradicate disease and hunger?  Will it even deliver human immortality?

“…there is nothing in biology yet found that indicates the inevitability of death. This suggests to me that it is not at all inevitable” – Richard Feynman.

Or will it race straight past us on the evolutionary path, rendering us extinct in the process?

These aren’t, as you might imagine, theoretical questions posed by conspiracy theorists, lunatics and science fiction nerds.  They’re the subject of heated – but entirely well-reasoned – debate amongst the greatest thinkers of our time.

If you’re interested to learn more about Artificial Intelligence I urge you to read the rather wonderful 2-part Artificial Intelligence essay on waitbutwhy.com.

Part 1 is here, and part 2 is here.

Go on, increase your intelligence.  You’re going to need it.

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