So Stop The Robots isn't for real at all. But it's still a movement worth paying attention to. Anything that gets us talking, in public and amongst ourselves, about the responsible uses of technology, and the potential risks and benefits of machine superintelligence, is a good thing. Even if it does turn out to be something of a astroturf movement, for now. As "Adam Mason" told the BBC:

When you take artificial intelligence and you put it in charge of a system or an entity that is not human, where it can grow and learn, and make decisions, without a moral guideline... humans make mistakes. If we make something that's as smart as a human or smarter, why won't it make mistakes? And furthermore, and how will it be beholden to us?


These aren't bad questions to be asking, both about the intentions and the fallibility of A.I. systems. And the fact that they're raising these concerns at SXSW, where people freak out over the latest privacy-invasive apps and hype a future in which technology basically takes over more and more parts of your life, seems significant too.

Because even if we don't actually get proper A.I. that has agency and makes independent decisions, as depicted in Ex Machina and Terminator, we're letting technology make more and more of our own decisions for us, and it's shaping our worldview in ways that are hard to define in the moment. So anything that gets us talking about those things — anything at all — is a good thing.


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