Could machines take over the world?

08 August 2017

Question

Could machines take over the world?

Answer

Chris asks computer guru Peter Clarke...

Chris - So, in other words, what he’s getting at is could the mechanisms that you were referring to about how machines learn, how we're writing programmes that enable computers to learn and become intelligent in their own right, could they, potentially, invent a way to see us off the planet?

Peter - Yes they could, and that’s the short answer. We’re dealing with amazing technologies. There’s an amazing advance happening and as this unfolds into society and starts to transform the way we do everything, it probably going to be a far larger impact than the industrial revolution, or the internet, or electronic communications. Because, we can see a point between 10 and 30 years depending on the particular person you believe, where we’re going to develop technologies. We’re going to develop these types of artificial neural technologies which will then surpass human capability.

The moment that happens, we’ve developed these systems, they will then be able to develop systems that are more sophisticated than themselves. So this is the idea that you get this sort of sudden runaway process whereby within a relatively short space of time computational power you hit the physical limit. You’re hitting physical limits which means that it’s incomprehensible compared to the way our brains are. You can make the argument whether it’s the most transformative point in human history or most transformative point in the history of life on Earth. I suspect you could probably make the second point.

It’s a potentially very dangerous situation and we all need to wake up and question about what world we want to live in because, at the end of the day, these intelligences can do almost anything but they need an objective. So what we need to do is think about objective, think about how we frame this and try and make sure, that for example, in The Terminator Apocalypse it’s objective was set, I think, to stop war. And so, the way to stop war is get rid of humans because humans create war so you need to be very careful…

Chris - Be careful what you wish for.

Peter - Yeah. It’s a combination of badly specified objectives and unintended consequences. Also we need to make it act for the human good and the good of the planet.

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