Stephen Hawking: ‘AI will be either the best, or the worst thing for humanity’

Warnings about the future of artificial intelligence have come from such eminent individuals as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking.

Now, Professor Hawking has reiterated his concerns, and expressed his hopes for the future of artificial intelligence at the opening of a new Centre for the Future of Intelligence at Cambridge University.

The cosmologist helped launch the new centre, which will bring together philosophers, psychologists, lawyers and computer scientists to grapple with some of the ethical and practical challenges artificial intelligence presents.

As the BBC reports, Hawking spoke at the opening event, explaining how he sees AI as the key to solving some of humanity’s biggest challenges.

Related: Elon Musk’s maddest predictions: The craziest things he said at Code 2016

He said: “I believe there is no deep difference between what can be achieved by a biological brain and what can be achieved by a computer.

“It therefore follows that computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence — and exceed it.”

But he also spoke of how the development of artificial intelligence could bring unexpected, and possibly disastrous consequences,

He added: “In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which.”

The theoretical physicist’s latest comments follow his previous, much more stern, warning about the threat general artificial intelligence could pose to the human race,

Two years ago, he told the BBC: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Artificial intelligence has received increased attention of late, with several developments being made this year, starting with Google’s DeepMind division creating an AI which managed to beat the Go world champion.

Last month, several large tech companies, including Google and Facebook, formed a new Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, designed to help shape the future of AI, while Microsoft, also part of the partnership, restructured its departments to create a new AI division.

Elsewhere, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has set up a non-profit organisation called Open AI, which is designed to “democratise AI power.”

Whatever the next development will be, it’s sure to arrive soon given the rapid pace of AI evolution, so stay tuned for more in the very near future.

Watch The Refresh: The best tech gossip and reviews every week

Let us know your thoughts on Professor Hawking’s concerns in the comments.

Unlike other sites, we thoroughly review everything we recommend, using industry standard tests to evaluate products. We’ll always tell you what we find. We may get a commission if you buy via our price links. Tell us what you think – email the Editor