Guest essay by Eric Worrall
As I predicted in 2017, the malevolent AI threat is rapidly moving up the ranks of candidate replacements for the failed climate change scare.
Artificial Intelligence is greater concern than climate change or terrorism, says new head of British Science Association
By Sarah Knapton, science editor
6 SEPTEMBER 2018 • 12:01AM
Artificial Intelligence is a greater concern than antibiotic resistance, climate change or terrorism for the future of Britain, the incoming president of the British Science Association has warned.
Jim Al-Khalili, Professor of physics and public engagement at the University of Surrey, said the unprecedented technological progress in AI was ‘happening too fast’ without proper scrutiny or regulation.
Prof Al-Khalili warned that the full threat to jobs and security had not been properly assessed and urged the government to urgently regulate.
Speaking at a briefing in London ahead of the British Science Festival in Hull next week, he said: “Until maybe a couple of years ago had I been asked what is the most pressing and important conversation we should be having about our future, I might have said climate change or one of the other big challenges facing humanity, such as terrorism, antimicrobial resistance, the threat of pandemics or world poverty.
“But today I am certain the most important conversation we should be having is about the future of AI. It will dominate what happens with all of these other issues for better or for worse.
Artificial intelligence has a lot of potential as a replacement scare story.
- AI directly threatens jobs and economic stability.
- AI undermines democracy – the elite owners of powerful AIs have an unprecedented advantage over everyone else.
- Hollywood is onboard – there are plenty of movies featuring dangerous AI adversaries out to control or destroy the world.
- AI threatens national security – a nation whose geopolitics is advised by greater than human intelligence will have a possibly insurmountable advantage.
- Powerful AIs may be difficult to control – humans will struggle to constrain machines more intelligent than their creators.
- Since Artificial General Intelligence (i.e. human level AI or better than human AI) does not yet exist, researchers can make stuff up, and nobody can prove they are wrong.
Obviously it will be difficult for climate scientists to jump ship and join the AI gravy train – or will it? Plenty of climate scientists have degrees which could be stretched to cover expert sounding pontification about artificial intelligence.
My 2018 prediction – expect to see more studies in the next five years exploring the impact of AI on climate change, written by climate scientists keen to build a parallel academic track record studying artificial intelligence issues.