Humans have an innate fear of the unknown and, in tech circles, there's no fear greater than the near future when brainiac walking computers take over the world one gun blast at a time. That's not the next "Terminator" movie synopsis, although it could be.
What it is, is a very real fear addressed today at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires by the tech world's leaders like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Tesla chief Elon Musk and scientist Stephen Hawking. It's in an open letter that's posted on the Future of Life Institute site.
They warn of a future where artificial intelligence is out of control. These visionaries, and at least a thousand academics, business leaders and scientists who signed their open letter, fear that AI in the future could be developed without serious controls for the safety of humans.
They worry that AI could be misused, notably with autonomous weapons that kill Earth's human residents. And they worry that unethical world leaders can use intelligent robots for evil.
In setting up the premise of their warning, the three science and tech visionaries first cite amazing advances over the past couple of decades in AI that are now commonplace or getting there. That includes speech recognition, self-driving vehicles, robots that walk and computers that can answer questions. They also say the future benefits of AI will be even more impressive, like ending poverty and ridding the world of every known disease.
That's more than hugely beneficial. It's mind-boggling to imagine a time when intelligent robots outdo us in our about ability to think and learn.
It's easy to imagine that from that could come super-smart robots that cure diseases, develop methods for farming that will feed the world's billions of residents and craft world economies that lift the poor out of poverty. And it's not too difficult to think of the bad that could come from it, from war to slavery.
In their open letter, Wozniak, Musk and Hawking note in a Research Priorities addendum that the potential of AI is enormous. But that's so only if it's developed solely for the benefit of humankind.