Science fiction is great fun, but should we really be quaking in our boots over dangerous A.I. anytime soon? A growing number of scientists say yes, and the results of their February conference at Asilomar are finally being made public.
At the conference, the scientists debated research limits on AI, much like their colleagues in genetics and biotechnology have done already with stems cells. Their thoughts were published this weekend under an ominous, dark cloud headline at the New York Times: "Scientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man"
The location is actually an interesting bit of trivia, as Asilomar was host to a groundbreaking conference on genetics and biology in 1975. At that conference, scientists met to debate their new found ability to reshape life at the cellular level. As the Times notes, the conference ultimately led to guidelines for "recombinant DNA research" and a Nobel Prize for organizer Paul Berg.
Today's scientists are hoping to get similar guidelines into place for AI, although many worried openly that autonomous people-killing robots were here already.
But for every cautionary tale out of Asilomar these days, there's a detractor ready to debunk the warnings with a bit of what they believe to be common sense. Said startup guru and investor Chris Dixon (via Gawker's own Nick Denton, no less), "Is the nytimes serious? AI researchers I know are embarrassed by the lack of progress, not worried about too much."
Indeed, when Wilson chatted with Wired for War author PW Singer during our ominous Machines Behaving Deadly theme week, we learned that a Terminator uprising was unlikely to happen anytime soon because the "preconditions" simply weren't in place—yet.