Potential Robot Assault on the Human Race to be Studied by Cambridge Group

Wednesday, November 28, 2012
(graphic: from the book Tom Swift and His Giant Robot by Victor Appleton II)

Three experts from the fields of philosophy, science and computer engineering have come together in the United Kingdom to study the possible threat that robots may pose for the human race.


Cambridge University now hosts the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER), which was co-founded by Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, Jaan Tallinn, a former software engineer and cofounder of Skype, and Lord Martin Rees, an astrophysicist and former Master of Trinity College and President of the Royal Society.


Under their guise, the CSER plans to study the dangers posed by biotechnology, artificial life, nanotechnology and climate change.


“At some point, this century or next, we may well be facing one of the major shifts in human history–perhaps even cosmic history–when intelligence escapes the constraints of biology,” Price said in a Cambridge University story.


“Nature didn’t anticipate us, and we in our turn shouldn’t take AGI (artificial general intelligence) for granted. We need to take seriously the possibility that there might be a ‘Pandora’s box’ moment with AGI that, if missed, could be disastrous. I don’t mean that we can predict this with certainty, no one is presently in a position to do that, but that’s the point! With so much at stake, we need to do a better job of understanding the risks of potentially catastrophic technologies,” Price added.


The idea for CSER first developed after Price met Tallinn, who has spoken out about the need to consider the ethical and safety aspects of AGI and artificial intelligence.


Price then introduced Tallinn to Rees, whose work on catastrophic risk includes the books Our Final Century and From Here to Infinity: Scientific Horizons.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Humanity’s Last Invention and our Uncertain Future (Research News, University of Cambridge)

Risk of Robot Uprising Wiping out Human Race to be Studied (BBC News)

Artificial Intelligence – Can we Keep it in the Box? (by Huw Price and Jaan Tallinn, The Conversation)

The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk (Website, University of Cambridge)

On the Horizon: Real Killer Robots (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Who’s Responsible if a Military Robot Kills Civilians? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


Leave a comment