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Revolt by killer robots worry scientists

Last Updated: Sunday, August 2, 2009 - 17:06

Washington: As advances in artificial intelligence bring the sci-fi fantasy dangerously closer to reality, worried scientists have painted a nightmare scenario of a revolt by killer robots, a situation until now limited to science fiction films.
Leading researchers have warned that they may be
creating ultrasmart machines which end up outsmarting and
perhaps even endangering humans.

At a secret meeting to discuss limiting their
research, top scientists cautioned that computer-based systems
that carry out a growing share of society’s workload, from
waging war to chatting on the phone, have already reached a
level of indestructibility, The Times newspaper reported on Sunday.

"These are powerful technologies that could be used in
good ways or scary ways," warned Eric Horvitz, key researcher
at Microsoft who set up the conference in Monterey Bay,
California, on behalf of the Association for the Advancement
of Artificial Intelligence.

Others warned that scientists are devoting far excess
time for creating artificial intelligence and too little on
robot safety.

"We’re rapidly approaching the time when new robots
should undergo tests, similar to ethical and clinical trials
for new drugs, before they can be introduced," Alan Winfield,
a professor at the University of the West of England, was
quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Scientists are particularly worried about the way the
latest, highly sophisticated artificially intelligent products
perform human-like functions, it said.

Critics have pointed to a US firm-led research to
create robotic nurses, which interacts with patients to
simulate empathy. According to them, while this could be
dehumanising, the greater worry is about the consequences of
something going wrong with the programming of the machine
dubbed "nursebots".

The scientists who presented their findings at the
International Joint Conference for Artificial Intelligence in
Pasadena, California, last month painted a scenario close to
those showcased in science fiction films, such as the
Terminator series, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey and
Minority Report.

At the same time, they dismissed as fanciful fears
about "singularity", the term used to describe the point where
robots have become so intelligent they are able to build ever
more capable versions of themselves without further input from

Bureau Report

First Published: Sunday, August 2, 2009 - 17:06
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