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Superintelligence - The end of the world?

By JAMES COAKES Published 17th Feb 2015
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Do you remember the film Terminator? The story starts with machines taking over the world. Scientists create robots that can think for themselves and they end up breaking the three laws of robotics set out by Isaac Asimov which dictate that robots must never harm human beings and must obey orders given to them. Chaos ensues as the robots take over and attempt to wipe humans off the face of the earth.

Recently scientist Stephen Hawking went on record to state his concerns over ‘Super-intelligence’. Bill Gates joined him and foresaw a scenario in which machines first did a lot for us but after a few decades their intelligence would be strong enough to be a concern.

Two reports in the media recently present, when you put them together, a different scenario. The first was about a ‘Robo Brain’ which has been created by Professor Ashutosh Saxena, an assistant Professor of Computer Science with Cornell University. The Professor, with a team of researchers, has created a system, based in the cloud, which has looked at a billion images, 100 million ’how to’ documents and 120,000 Youtube videos. The aim is to create a super brain that can help other computers to find knowledge when they need it with the aim of making robots better helpers for humans.

Could robots using Youtube tutorials just balls everything up?

Well, that sounds interesting enough. However, here’s the other story. According to a survey undertaken by insurers LV Youtube tutorials are responsible for £67 million worth of DIY disasters and botched repairs. That’s just the Youtube problem, anyone who has looked for information on the internet will know that there is a huge range of different opinions available, because the internet democratises and allows anyone to have their opinion without any formal quality control.

So it may be that Steven Hawking and Bill Gates are right to be concerned. When we think about that concern it might start to look a bit like the opening scenes of the Terminator, with the machines at war with humans.

However, there is an alternative scenario and it’s probably even more worrying than that one. In it the machines start to take over and make a complete hash of everything because they watched a ‘how to’ video on nuclear reactors made by a 12 year old kid in his bedroom at home.

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