Intelligent Machines -- On Earth and Beyond

February 3, 2015 4:54 PM

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Stephen Hawking famously warned in 2010 that based on the history of humankind, an alien, more advanced, civilization would probably destroy us. "We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn't want to meet," he said. Hawking expressed a similar fear of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) machines. In 2014 he pronounced: "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race." Taken seriously, these two statements could even imply that we should neither search for extrasolar advanced civilizations, nor strive for superior AI machines.

I was contemplating these issues when I received the annual EDGE question from the "intellectual impresario" John Brockman. Every year, Brockman sends to about two hundred thinkers a single question, and he posts all the answers on his website, The question for 2015 was: "What Do You Think...

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