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A humanoid robot (PHOTO: Wellcome Images)
Sir Martin Rees warns that super-intelligent robots could wipe out humanity
- Astronomer Royal says we are facing an 'inorganic post-human era'
- AI will surpass people because we are constrained by organic brains
- By some estimates, he says, the process will begin in the next 25 years
- The fact that AI isn't constrained by Earth's biosphere makes it an even deadlier threat, says the 72-year-old
Artificial intelligence is progressing at a frightening pace leading humanity towards its ultimate destruction.
This is according to British theoretical astrophysicist, Sir Martin Rees, who believes we are facing an 'inorganic post-human era'.
By some estimates, he says, the process will begin in the next 25 years as robots begin to achieve intelligence rivalling that of humans.
The British Astronomer Royal, Sir Martin Rees,
believes that we are facing an 'inorganic post-human
era' in which robot intelligence will surpass that of
people, leading to humanity's ultimate destruction
Sir Martin, who is one of the world's most eminent astronomers, says that while Earth has existed for 45 million centuries, this century is special.
Over nearly all of Earth's history, threats have come from nature, but from now on, the worst dangers come from us – and specifically artificial intelligence.
He says that by any definition of 'thinking', the amount and intensity that's done by organic human-type brains will, in the far future, be swamped by the intelligence of AI.
'There are chemical and metabolic limits to the size and processing power of organic brains,' wrote Sir Rees, in an opinion piece for the Telegraph.
Sir Rees says that by any definition of 'thinking', the amount and intensity that's done by human-type brains will, in the far future, be swamped by the intelligence of AI.Pictured is a scene from the 2015 film 'Ex Machina'
WILL RELIGIONS TRY TO CONVERT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
Reverend Dr Christopher Benek, an associate Pastor of Providence at the Presbyterian Church in Florida, believes religions may help AI live alongside mankind.
'I don't see Christ's redemption limited to human beings,' he told Gizmodo in an interview.
'It's redemption to all of creation, even AI,' he added. 'If AI is autonomous, then we have should encourage it to participate in Christ's redemptive purposes in the world.'
Reverend Benek's statements, however, raise the question of whether AI can have a soul.
Marvin Minksy, a pioneer on the field of artificial intelligence and an MIT professor doesn't see why not.
'What humans have is a more complex and larger brain than any other animal - maybe a whale's brain is physically large, but it's not structurally more complex than ours,' he told the Jerusalem Post.
'If you left a computer by itself, or a community of them together, they would try to figure out where they came from and what they are.'
'Maybe humans are close to these limits already.
'But there are no such constraints on silicon-based computers.
'For these, the potential for further development could be as dramatic as the evolution from monocellular organisms to humans.'
The fact that AI isn't constrained by Earth's biosphere, makes it an even deadlier threat.
'Interplanetary and interstellar space will be the preferred arena where robotic fabricators will have the grandest scope for construction,' said the Astronomer Royal.
And the pace of innovation in the field is moving rapidly.
Sir Rees highlights progress Deep Mind, a London company owned by Google, who recently create a machine that could figure out the rules in old Atari games without human interventions.
The 72-year-old is also concerned by the safety of driverless cars, and their ability to discriminate between objects on the road.
'And what about the military use of autonomous drones?,' he asks.
'Can they be trusted to seek out a targeted individual and decide whether to deploy their weapon?'
Sir Rees suggests that super-intelligent robots could be the last invention that humans ever make.
Once machines have overtaken human capabilities, they could design and assemble a new generation of even more powerful machines.
'In the far future, it won't be the minds of humans, but those of machines, that will most fully understand the cosmos,' said Sir Rees.
'And it will be the actions of autonomous machines that will most drastically change our world, and perhaps what lies beyond.'
Sir Rees' concerns were last week echoed by Stephen Hawking who said that rather than being concerned about who controls AI, we should be worried if AI can be controlled at all.
His comments were made today at the Zeitgeist 2015 conference in London, and follows a previous warning that artificial intelligence could spell the end for humanity.
Earlier this year, Hawking signed an open letter with Elon Musk arguing AI development should not go on uncontrolled.
The letter said that without safeguards on intelligent machines, mankind could be heading for a dark future.
In November, Elon Musk, the entrepreneur behind Space-X and Tesla, warned that the risk of 'something seriously dangerous happening' as a result of machines with artificial intelligence, could be in as few as five years.
He has previously linked the development of autonomous, thinking machines, to 'summoning the demon'.