At the Brilliant Minds conference in Stockholm on June 9, Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt spoke about fears of an extinction level event caused by artificial intelligence.
Over the years major figures, such as physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla Motor’s CEO Elon Musk, have spoken out about what they perceive as the dangers of A.I. In 2014, Hawking told the BBC that A.I. could “spell the end of the human race”. Musk wrote in the same year, “the risk of something seriously dangerous happening [regarding A.I.] is in the five year time frame, 10 at most.” He also believed that companies attempting to control the intelligence they created may find themselves unable to.
According to Business Insider, Schmidt was somewhat dismissive of these notions when questioned. “In the case of Stephen Hawking, although a brilliant man, he’s not a computer scientist,” he said. “Elon [Musk] is also a brilliant man, though he too is a physicist, not a computer scientist.”
“Elon [Musk] is also a brilliant man… not a computer scientist.”
Schmidt also noted that Musk had invested in the non-profit OpenAI, which is working to develop open source A.I.
He went on to compare the scenarios in question as something only possible in movies:
“The scenario you’re just describing is the one where the computers get so smart is that they want to destroy us at some point in their evolving intelligence due to some bug. My question to you is: don’t you think the humans would notice this, and start turning off the computers? We’d have a race between humans turning off computers, and the AI relocating itself to other computers, in this mad race to the last computer, and we can’t turn it off, and that’s a movie. It’s a movie. The state of the earth currently does not support any of these scenarios.”
A number of companies have begun public work involving artificial intelligence. Google, owned by Alphabet, recently unveiled an intelligent assistant service that will be coming to Android. Microsoft recently experienced some backlash when they publicly tested an artificially intelligent Twitter account called “Tay” which was publicly manipulated into being a racist pro-Hitler promotion. In early 2016, Apple purchased the A.I. startup Emotient which seeks to analyze facial expressions. Both Facebook and Amazon have invested in their own “machine learning” services for predictive applications.
Google was also recently in the news for teaming up with Oxford to develop an A.I. “killswitch”, which could shut down a program if it attempts to go rogue.