For the past couple of months now, we’ve seen a few headlines about Stephen Hawking warning against the danger of artificial intelligence. In an AMA earlier this year, Hawking’s predictions about AI resembled Skynet—artificial intelligence that seem to disdain toward humanity.
After a much successful AMA, Hawking took the time in the last couple of months to clarify some of his answers for Reddit, including his stance on AI. He doesn’t consider AI to be some science fiction villain. He states, “The real risk with AI isn’t malice but competence.”
It’s valuable that we have Stephen Hawking warning the public about the dangers of AI, specifically as automated weaponry becomes prominent. While Hawking has been working with physicists Max Tegmark, Frank Wilczek and computer science expert Stuart Russell to look into the dangers of AI, Hawking’s pop culture status runs a risk of diluting the message.
When we see articles about Hawking’s stance on AI, are these actual attempts to raise awareness or is it just clickbait? What’s troubling is that in these write-ups about Hawking’s stance on AI, his cautionary quotes are typically followed up with questions about One Direction or if he watches ‘The Big Bang Theory’. (I’m certainly guilty of that myself.)
However, this doesn’t mean that popular news and entertainment websites are making Hawking’s efforts fruitless. Tegmark was a panelist during a recent United Nations meeting discussing the potential threats of AI. Along with philosopher Nick Bostrom, he emphasized the importance of prioritizing the control problem before exploring the potential of AI. As Gizmodo concludes, even though we may be years away from the type of AI discussed at the panel, it’s smart that the discourse is underway.