Cambridge To Study Technology’s Risk To Human Population

Could technology cause computers to become more clever than humans and eventually take over the world?

According to NBC News, philosophers and scientists at Britain’s Cambridge University think that the question deserves serious study.

The institution said on Sunday that the Center for the Study of Existential Risk will bring experts together to consider the ways in which super intelligent technology, including AI, could possibly “threaten our own existence.”

Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price said:

“In the case of artificial intelligence, it seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology.”

He said that, after that happens, “we’re no longer the smartest things around.” We will also be at the mercy of “machines that are not malicious, but machines whose interests don’t include us.”

Such fears have long been the subject of science fiction. For example, the computer HAL in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of film’s best-known computer threats.

Price insisted that the potential risks are serious enough to not shrug off. He said:

“It tends to be regarded as a flaky concern, but given that we don’t know how serious the risks are, that we don’t know the time scale, dismissing the concerns is dangerous. What we’re trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community.”

While Price said the exact nature of the risk is difficult to predict, he said that advanced technology could be a threat when computers start to direct resources towards their own goals at the expense of human concerns like environmental sustainability.

Price is co-founding the project together with Cambridge professor of cosmology and astrophysics Martin Rees. He also is working with Jann Tallinn, one of the founders of the internet phone service Skype.