Artificial Intelligence will be the Best or Worst thing to happen to Humanity

Professor Hawking made a speech at the launch of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, October 19, 2016.

It is a great pleasure to be here today to open this new Centre. We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. So it is a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence.

Intelligence is central to what it means to be human. Everything that our civilisation has achieved, is a product of human intelligence, from learning to master fire, to learning to grow food, to understanding the cosmos.

I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer. It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence — and exceed it.

Artificial intelligence research is now progressing rapidly. Recent landmarks such as self-driving cars, or a computer winning at the game of Go, are signs of what is to come. Enormous levels of investment are pouring into this technology. The achievements we have seen so far will surely pale against what the coming decades will bring.

The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge. We cannot predict what we might achieve, when our own minds are amplified by AI. Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one — industrialisation. And surely we will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation.

But it could also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. Alongside the benefits, AI will also bring dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It will bring great disruption to our economy. And in the future, AI could develop a will of its own — a will that is in conflict with ours.

In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which. That is why in 2014, I and a few others called for more research to be done in this area. I am very glad that someone was listening to me!

The research done by this centre is crucial to the future of our civilisation and of our species. I wish you the best of luck!”

6 thoughts on “Artificial Intelligence will be the Best or Worst thing to happen to Humanity

  1. He has changed his mind? No AI threat any more? Great! Great! Great! and nice!! AI-projects will get more budgets , more money and eat the Humanity much sooner!!!

  2. Yes Mike; AI is extremely unlikely to be a singular software program with a singular purpose; I suspect that we will have many different forms of computer intelligence, for different purposes, just as we currently do.

  3. I think that it will be a number of things to us. The reason that I say this is because there are many different strands of AI development in many different areas. For example, if Elon Musk’s outfit is trying to develop a kinder, safer car, then that’s one type. However, if DARPA is trying to make a more efficient and disposable killing machine, then that is another entirely. Let’s hope the Musk version ends up being stronger…

  4. Well Gabriele, I doubt that AI will exist in isolation; I suspect that what will happen is that human consciousness and AI will become one to an extent, and that the Posthuman species will have a consciousness that is the combination of AI and human consciousness. This is already happening to an extent, where those of us who are connected to the Internet are essentially becoming a combination of human consciousness and computer consciousness, where anything we wish to know, we can just ask a software program such as Google AI. Once neural interfaces are developed, or even just interfaces such as Google Glass type interfaces, human beings will be able to converse with AI constantly. I think that hopefully this will bring about the End of Religion, where instead of human beings constantly talking to themselves in inner conversations, they will talk to AI. There are of course dangers with AI and their use by police states, however, AI will hopefully replace all human governments eventually. That is the optimistic perspective of course, though other dystopian possibilities are possible, and of course, the military use of AI and robotics may produce the Mother of all Wars in the 21st century.

  5. Indeed it will. I think the final outcome will largely depend on the way we see It and wish to interact with. Will we think of it as of a slave, or a sentient being that also deserve rights? Because it’s a conscious machine we’re talking about.

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