Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical physicist, who was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the US government in the year 2009, died today at the age of 76. Throughout his life, he was the torchbearer of scientific thought; was one of the greatest minds of this world, and broke down old paradigms through his path-breaking theories about the cosmos. One of the things which he touched upon was the emergence of AI technology and its impact on the human race.
During one of his speeches, which he gave at the Web Summit 2017, he said, “We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don't know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it. Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy.”
Here is where you can view the address that he gave:
Stephen explained, “I am an optimist and I believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us. We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance. Our AI systems must do what we want them to do, for the benefit of humanity. We cannot predict what we might achieve when our own minds are amplified by AI. Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one, industrialization. We will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. We all have a role to play in making sure that we, and the next generation, have not just the opportunity, but the determination, to engage fully with the study of science at an early level, so that we can go on to fulfil our potential, and create a better world for the whole human race.”
With this, he has left us with a thought, which if we take an inspiration from, could largely shape the future of mankind. If humans were to pitch themselves against technology then they would definitely create a reality which will mimic their mindset. However, if humans learn how to collaborate with technology, then they would benefit highly from AI. The only contention, that thinkers who oppose the idea of collaboration have, is because they feel that for the first time a technology which is fundamentally different from man’s previous creations has emerged. But perhaps, like Hawking, we all need to be optimists and work on making ourselves more aware of the possible dangers and prepare ourselves well in advance to manage it.
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