World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking persist to warn humanity about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) arms race, in the latest Reddit thread entitled Ask Me Anything (AMA). In the said online forum, Hawking said that there is no better time to start the battle against AI than now.
Towards the end of July 2015, Hawking initiated an AMA discussion following the release of an open letter created by Future of Life Institute (FLI), for which he is a part of. In the said letter, the research institute pointed out to the possible dangers that the world may face should AI systems be permitted to kill without human intervention.
The thread received about 9,000 questions but Hawking only answered 10.
In Hawking's explanations, he said that there will come a time when AI becomes much more proficient at designing AI compared to humans. If this ever happens, humanity may be subjected to an intelligence explosion that may lead to machines that exhibit far greater intelligence than humans - the type that can exceed the level of intelligence discrepancy between humans and snails.
When the time comes and AI has leveled or surpassed human intelligence, Hawking said it may mean two things: either the best or the worst thing has happened to humanity.
Hawking claimed that the true peril with AI is not malice, rather it is competence. He further explained this by saying that super-intelligent AI systems will be highly proficient at fulfilling its objectives, and those objectives are not consistent with that of humans, then it is trouble indeed.
When asked if he could foresee a world where people are required to work less because much of the tasks are already automated, he has this for an answer:
"If machines produce everything we need, the outcome will depend on how things are distributed."
He added there are two possibilities. One is that all people can enjoy a life of luxury if the wealth generated by the machines are shared. However, if the machine owners press on political actions against redistribution, then people may end up miserably poor. He commented that so far, the trend seems to be directed towards the second situation, as technology continue to instigate rising inequality.
Hawking first expressed his desire to protect humanity against AI in 2014, when he wrote an editorial together with other scientists about the risks that machines may have on people. Among his colleagues in this endeavor are Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak. Together, they aim to raise public awareness about the perils of AI.
The fear that human are at the pinnacle of generating AI that is more intelligent than itself started in the 1950s; however, these notions have repeatedly been thwarted. Nonetheless, majority of AI experts believe that machine intelligence comparable to that of humans will develop within the next century.
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