Stephen Hawking: AI Could Be Human History's Greatest Disaster - But There is an Alternative

Stephen Hawking: AI Could Be Human History's Greatest Disaster - But There is an Alternative

Robert Woolliams

October 20, 2016

2 Min Read

Stephen Hawking confirms the fear raised by many: Artificial Intelligence could be the greatest disaster in human history. However, this is only unless it is not properly managed, the famous physicist says.

The bold statement came during Hawking's speech at the opening of the leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) at Cambridge University on Wednesday, The Independent reports.

Hawking's most serious concern is related to the power of AI ending up in the hands of the "wrong people", who could potentially use it for the creation of powerful weapons or for those in power to control and suppress the public.

If we do not learn to cope with it soon enough, AI might be the last event in the history of our civilisation, Hawking stated during his speech, while also emphasising AI's great potential to erase poverty and disease.

“We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. So it’s a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence”, Hawking said.

“The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge. 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", Hawking reminds the audience. “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".

The famous physicist states that there is no distinction between the possibilities of what a human brain can develop, versus a computer. In certain areas we have already seen the computer outdo human intelligence, Hawking states.

Referring to self-driving cars and computers being able to win over humans, he lists one of many incidents that we need to be cautious of in the future.

Stephen Hawking is due to speak at Microsoft's Future Decoded event in November, where AI Business will be present to report from the speech, hopefully bringing a broader insight into the thoughts of the physicist about the future of AI.

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