Stephen Hawking warns of ‘AI arms race’

Image: Stephen Hawking
British physicist Stephen Hawking chats with Larry King. (Credit: Ora.TV)

British physicist Stephen Hawking says the potential threat from artificial intelligence isn’t just a far-off “Terminator”-style nightmare. He’s already pointing to signs that AI is going down the wrong track.

“Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies,” Hawking told veteran interviewer Larry King. “The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening, seems a somewhat lower priority.”

It’s not surprising that Hawking is worried about AI – he’s been issuing warning for years. But the concern over an AI arms race adds a short-term spin to the long-term concern.

There’s certainly an AI race going on, spanning a spectrum from Microsoft’s vision of AI-enhanced applications to the self-driving cars that so many companies seem to be working on. Hawking has joined forces with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and thousands of other techies in expressing deep concern about the military side of AI.

In the “Larry King Now” online interview, available via Ora.TV, Hawking acknowledged that AI can bring lots of benefits to humanity. “Imagine algorithms able to quickly assess scientists’ ideas, catch cancer earlier and predict the stock markets,” he said.

But Hawking said AI’s reach will have to be strictly regulated.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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