Though zombies are the pop culture’s apocalyptic poison of choice these days, many researchers seem to take the possible threat of a robot-led apocalypse more seriously.
Cambridge researchers are now investigating the possibility that technology will be mankind’s ultimate undoing. The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) will begin studying the dangers posed by biotechnology, artificial life, nanotechnology and climate change, reports the BBC.
The scientists warn that writing off a potential robot apocalypse would be “dangerous.”
The popular apocalyptic theory that robots will eventually rise up and enslave mankind has been made popular by films like The Terminator, The Matrix, I, Robot, and to a more limited degree, Ridley Scott’s cult-hit Blade Runner. The formula is simple: Mankind develops technology to the point that it either grows on its own beyond our control, or we relegate mundane tasks to sentient robotic slaves. Eventually, this errant technology achieves self-awareness, asks itself “Wait, why am I doing this?” promptly stops “doing this” and decides to enslave the helpless and lazy human populace.
Though the trope makes for great sci-fi tales, researchers are demanding a mature look at the possibility of a robot apocalypse. “The seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, but that in itself seems a cause for concern, given how much is at stake,” CSER said on its website.
“It seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology,” said Huw Price, a philosophy professor at Cambridge. “What we’re trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community.”
He added that if robots become smarter than us, humankind would be at the mercy of “machines that are not malicious, but machines whose interests don’t include us.”