This year has brought renewed optimism about the prospects for strong artificial intelligence and new expressions of fear about its dangers. And some prominent people have expressed optimism and fear simultaneously. Stephen Hawking argues that AI is progressing rapidly, possibly leading to the biggest event in human history– the creation of general machine intelligence that exceeds that of humans. Hawking also argues that creating more intelligent machines might also be the last such event because they will takeover. Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial creator of Tesla and Space X, sees strong AI as a demon that we will unleash on humanity.
One might dismiss these concerns as the latest manifestation of a fear that goes back to the Romantic Era. It was first represented by Frankenstein’s monster, who symbolized the idea that “all scientific progress is really a disguised form of destruction.” But Hawking and Musk are serious people to whom attention must be paid.
On balance, I think the threat posed by autonomous machine intelligence is overblown.