Inspired by the story in the latest Johnny Depp movie, Transcendence, Professor Stephen Hawking has written a column for British newspaper The Independent outlining his concerns surrounding the continued pursuit of artificial intelligence, and the potential dangers it could hold for humanity.
In the column, the renowned physicist suggests that mankind is failing to take the dangers of AI seriously, and that could have serious consequences for the future of our species, and the earth as a hole. He wrote:
With the Hollywood blockbuster Transcendence playing in cinemas, with Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman showcasing clashing visions for the future of humanity, it's tempting to dismiss the notion of highly intelligent machines as mere science fiction. But this would be a mistake, and potentially our worst mistake in history.
The potential benefits are huge; everything that civilisation has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools that AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease, and poverty would be high on anyone's list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history.
Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. In the near term, world militaries are considering autonomous-weapon systems that can choose and eliminate targets; the UN and Human Rights Watch have advocated a treaty banning such weapons.
Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved: there is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains. An explosive transition is possible, although it might play out differently from in the movie: as Irving Good realised in 1965, machines with superhuman intelligence could repeatedly improve their design even further, triggering what Vernor Vinge called a "singularity" and Johnny Depp's movie character calls "transcendence".
You can read the rest of the article by checking out The Independent's site in the above link, and we throughly recommend you do. Hawking raises a point that hasn't been entirely uncommon throughout science fiction, but with the advances in technology coming as quickly as they are now, could we be looking at the beginning of the end for mankind?