Stephen Hawking — a renowned theoretical physicist and cosmologist — recently gave a speech at the opening of the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence (LCFI) at Cambridge University. In it, he quipped:

“We spend a great deal of time studying history. Which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity. So it’s a welcome change that people are studying instead the future of intelligence.”

The LCFI, in the words of its own press release, “aims to lead the global conversation about the opportunities and challenges to humanity that lie ahead in the future of [artificial intelligence].”

Hawking also has choice words about what is commonly called ‘technological singularity’ — the point at which artificial intelligence surpasses our own, with unknown results:

“When it eventually does occur, it’s likely to be either the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity, so there’s huge value in getting it right.”

I love these kinds of quotes because I always imagine the speaker saying them with a note of dread in their voice. In the same speech, Stephen Hawking went on to say:

“The potential benefits of creating intelligence are huge. We cannot predict what we might achieve when our own minds are amplified by AI. Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one – industrialisation. And surely we will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty.”

Mr. Hawking then sat in awkward silence before nervously continuing: “That is what we’re gonna do with them, right? Right guys?”

“Every aspect of our lives will be transformed. In short, success in creating AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation.”

God bless your optimism, Mr. Hawking. You basically see humanity as Lennie in Of Mice and Men — a species of giant, well-meaning idiots who accidentally kill themselves their puppies.

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