Edition 1479
16 June 2018
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Intelligent machines could ‘dispense with humanity’ - Lisbon professor

by TPN/Lusa, in News · 18-05-2017 14:57:00 · 0 Comments

A future in which intelligent machines may think it best to dispense with humanity for the good of the planet is among the possibilities foreseen by the director of Lisbon’s top engineering institute, the Instituto Superior Técnico, in a new book launched on Wednesday.

In “The Digital Mind”, Arlindo Oliveira describes how the human brain and artificial intelligence have become interweaved in a way that could lead to hitherto unimaginable scenarios, for example the creation of “digital persons” - machines capable of thought that may be indistinguishable from human beings.
“I have no doubt that we are on our way there, one way or another,” the author told Lusa News Agency in an interview this week.
For example, he argued, it is impossible to foresee when we will arrive at a machine that is able to ensure its own evolution: “it won’t happen tomorrow or five years from now [and] I don’t know if it is five hundred years from now or fifty” but it will come, starting with a period of co-existence between humans and machines with artificial intelligence.
“If it happens in fifty or a hundred years, we’ll get used to this idea, as we’ve got used to living with domesticated animals,” he pointed out. However, such co-existence may not be wholly peaceful, going by phenomena that already exist in society, such as xenophobia.
Since such machines would have “in principle, an internal behaviour very similar or the same as humans”, they would be “granted rights” - according to legal theories that are already being debated
A “digital person” could be the last stage of evolution that has already started in the form of the algorithms that search the data of users on social networks, charting trends in likes and opinions. It is, Oliveira argues, already “very clear” that many people’s behaviour is “highly predictable” - potentially undermining the idea that each person and their choices are important.
Another risk is that a system that could become much more intelligent than humans could be a threat to the species. If such a computer were asked how best to resolve the problem of global warming, for example, the answer could be “exterminate people”.
Oliveira’s book, whose full title is ‘The digital mind - How Science is redefining humanity’, is published by MIT Press.
It reviews the history of the evolution of artificial intelligence, of our knowledge of the human brain and of the ways in which computers, cells and brains are all essentially instruments for the processing of information.


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Edition 1479
16 June 2018
Edition: 1479

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.



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