Our desire to create helpful digital assistants and self-driving vehicles could bring about our demise.
Professor Stephen Hawking has again warned that humanity faces an uncertain future as technology learns to think for itself and adapt to its environment.
Speaking at event in London, the physicist told the BBC that: ‘The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.’
This echoes claims he made earlier in the year when he said success in creating AI ‘would be the biggest event in human history, [but] unfortunately, it might also be the last.’
He argues that developments in digital personal assistants Siri, Google Now and Cortana are merely symptoms of an IT arms race which ‘pale against what the coming decades will bring.’
But Professor Hawking noted that other potential benefits of this technology could also be significant, with the potential to eradicate, war, disease and poverty.
‘Looking further ahead, there are no fundamental limits to what can be achieved,’ continued Professor Hawking.
‘There is no physical law precluding particles from being organised in ways that perform even more advanced computations than the arrangements of particles in human brains.’
Professor Hawking made today’s claims at an event, during which he unveiled a new communications platform, designed by Intel, that will replace his current system.
The platform called Assistive Context Aware Toolkit (ACAT) uses Professor Hawking’s existing cheek sensor, which is detected by an infrared switch mounted onto his glasses.
This helps him select a character on a computer. Software from language technology experts SwiftKey is then used to learn from Professor Hawking and predict his next characters and words.
This means he can type 20 per cent fewer characters he would previously have had to type, making communication faster.
This information is sent to his existing speech synthesizer so he can communicate to others through his laptop.
For example, to conduct a web search, Professor Hawking previously had to exit from his communication window, navigate a mouse to run the browser, navigate the mouse again to the search bar and finally type the search text.
This new system automates all of these steps.
According to Intel, Professor Hawking’s typing speed is twice as fast and his improvement in common tasks, such as easier, more accurate and faster browsing, editing, managing and navigating the web, emails and documents has increased ten-fold.
Professor Hawking has a Motor Neurone Disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a condition that has progressed over the years. This leaves him almost entirely paralysed.
‘Medicine has not been able to cure me, so I rely on technology to help me communicate and live,’ said Professor Hawking.
‘The development of this system has the potential to improve the lives of disabled people around the world and is leading the way in terms of human interaction and the ability to overcome communication boundaries that once stood in the way.’
The platform has been three years in the making.
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