Artificial Intelligence Protest At SXSW 2015: Are We That Scared Of Robots?

An artificial intelligence protest erupted outside the SXSW 2015 conference in Austin, Texas, on Sunday. Chants of “I say robot, you say no-bot” joined signs demanding human intelligence instead of artificial.

A group of 24 protesters drew attention, as they openly opposed the movement toward a technological breakthrough which could lead to actual humanoid robots eventually.

Those who don’t agree with the protest might wonder just how paranoid we’re being about it all. While movies like The Terminator, The Matrix, and even the Johnny Depp flop Transcendence showed us the nightmarish reality of what could happen if we give too much power to a machine, those movies are all still works of fiction.

The risks behind the artificial intelligence protest are backed by the brilliance of Professor Stephen Hawking though. The protesters themselves were engineers from the University of Texas, each wearing a T-shirt bearing the words from the Elon Musk speech in 2014.

“With artificial intelligence, we’re summoning the demon.”

Stop the Robots protest organizer Adam Mason told the press about their reasons for the rally.

“We stick with a pretty controversial message of ‘Stop the Robots’, even though we ourselves are technologists.”

“It’s when you take artificial intelligence and you put it in charge of a system or an entity that is not human where it can grow and learn and make decisions without a moral guideline. Humans make mistakes.”

“If we make something that is as smart as humans or smarter, why won’t it make mistakes and how will it be beholden to us?”

Mason also added that even though there are planes that can take off and land safely with nothing but a circuit board at the controls, “when we put 50 people into the air, we still put a human behind the control.”

Morality appears to be the issue, because Mason claims humans normally have a sense of morality, while computers know no such boundaries. For an example, take a look at any open world violent video game: Those pieces of programming are painfully efficient, and putting them in the real world sounds like something straight out of a Bond film.

This concept is the reason why engineers held the artificial intelligence protest outside SXSW this year.

The reality of it all remains that machines are still incapable of many basic human decisions. What scares the robot protest attendees is what could happen if choices of morality are left to a circuit board. We saw the results in the original RoboCop, where an experimental law enforcement machine gunned down an innocent man simply because of a programming malfunction.

Do you think the artificial intelligence protest at SXSW 2015 was unnecessary, or are we really that close to accidentally filling the world with killer robots?

[Image via Geek Tyrant]

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