May 4, 2014, 11:10 PM ET
The idea of sultry blond fembots in lingerie firing shots out of their bras and destroying the world doesn’t sound quite so ridiculous anymore.
Not after what Stephen Hawking had to say about artificial intelligence in an article he co-authored over the weekend for the U.K.’s Independent.
“Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history,” the much-heralded physicist and University of Cambridge professor said. “Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.”
He began his piece with a reference to “Transcendence,” Johnny Depp’s latest movie release, saying it could be “our worst mistake in history.”
No, not the film, rather “dismissing the notion of highly intelligent machines as science fiction.”
He explained that self-driving cars, a bot winning at “Jeopardy”, Siri, Google Now and Cortana “are merely symptoms of an IT arms race fueled by unprecedented investments and building on an increasingly mature theoretical foundation.” All those will pale compared to what’s on tap, he warned.
Potential benefits are massive. Perhaps the eradication of war, disease and poverty, Hawking said. The downside is easier to envision.
“One can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand,” he said. “All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks.”
As for “Transcendence,” here’s the trailer in which Depp’s characters talks of “a machine with a full range of human emotion. Its analytical power will be greater than the collective intelligence of every person in the history of the world.”
Entertaining (for some) when Hollywood delivers the message on the big screen. But it’s pretty scary when a guy with cred like Hawking does it.