Artificial Intelligence: Is the Promise Worth the Peril?

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Artificial intelligence might be the death of humanity. That’s from no less an authority than Stephen Hawking, the world’s best-known physicist. Other scientists are heeding his warning that programs could outsmart their programmers with unintended consequences that can’t be predicted. Massive investment by Google, Facebook and others, they say, is making that much more likely to happen, much sooner, than anybody expected. How do Americans feel about science fiction made real? Will developers agree not to go too far before it’s too late?

Since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, out-of-control technology has been a staple of science fiction. Remember when the computer Hal refused to let the astronaut Dave back into the spaceship that was orbiting Jupiter? The current film, Transcendence, has updated that terrifying scenario, and it might become real much sooner than ever expected. That’s according to Hawking, who’s warning against what he calls “potentially our worst mistake in history.” From a man with advanced ALS, who depends on robotics to live, that has the rest of the scientific community paying attention.




Warren Olney