Thursday, November 29, 2012

Scientists to study the threat of a robotic uprising

Suspend your disbelief, even if this is not a movie: on Monday it was announced that researchers are poised to study possible dangers posed by a robot or computer uprising. Yes, the researchers from the Center for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), a Cambridge University research group, will examine just that possibility.

Naturally, it's easy to scoff at such an idea, but one look at the technology behind computers such as IBM's Watson, which easily won a tournament against two Jeopardy champions, makes one wonder how far off a truly sentient artificial intelligence could be.

Just how far off, therefore, is a real-life version of Skynet, Colossus: The Forbin Project, or HAL?

CSER said:
Many scientists are concerned that developments in human technology may soon pose new, extinction-level risks to our species as a whole. Such dangers have been suggested from progress in AI, from developments in biotechnology and artificial life, from nanotechnology, and from possible extreme effects of anthropogenic climate change.

The seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, but that in itself seems a cause for concern, given how much is at stake.
Co-founded by Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price, cosmology and astrophysics professor Martin Rees and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn, this CSER project should not be confused with a different one, the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. The Center for the Study of Existential Risk is dedicated to the scientific study and mitigation of existential risks of threats to humankind caused by developing technologies. CSER was created this year.

Co-founder Price said:
It seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology. What we're trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community.

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