Stephen Hawking Concerned for “Stupidity” of Mankind and Government Usage of Artificial Intelligence

Stephen Hawking discusses air pollution, overpopulation and concerns about the correct usage of artificial intelligence.


In a recent interview with Larry King, Stephen Hawking discusses what the biggest threats to mankind are and expresses his concerns about artificial intelligence.

“Back in 2010 you mentioned that ‘greed and stupidity were the biggest threats to mankind’, do you still feel the same?” King asks.

“We certainly have not become less greedy or less stupid”, Hawking says, “Six years ago I was warning about pollution and overcrowding, they have gotten worse since then. The population has grown by half a billion since our last meeting, with no end in sight. At this rate, there will be 11 billion by 2100. Air pollution has increased over the past five years, more than 80% of inhabitants of urban areas are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution.”

So what is the biggest problem facing humanity today?

“Increase in air pollution and the emission level increase in carbon dioxide. At this rate, it will be too late to avoid dangerous levels of global warming,” Hawking says.

(While the World Health Organization surely confirms Hawking’s concerns about air pollution in urban areas, TrueActivist cannot confirm or deny the “stupidity” of humanity.)

Larry King goes on to ask Hawking about the dangers of artificial intelligence. “How seriously are governments taking this warning?” he asks.

Governments seem to be engaged in an AI arms race, designing planes and weapons with intelligent technologies. The funding for projects directly beneficial to the human race, such as improved medical screening, seems a somewhat lower priority,” Hawking responds. “I don’t think advances in our artificial intelligence will necessarily be benign, once machines reach the critical stage of machines being able to acknowledge themselves, we cannot predict whether their goals will be the same as ours. Artificial intelligence has the potential to evolve faster than the human race, beneficially I could coexist with humans and augment our capabilities, but a rogue AI could be difficult to stop. We need to insure that artificial intelligence is designed ethically with safeguards in place.”

How governments are using Artificial Intelligence

Stephen Hawking may express a valid concern when it comes to the possibility of governments involving themselves in an artificial intelligence arms race.  According to the White House government website, they mention that their goals with AI “plays a key role in self-driving vehicles, which have the potential to save thousands of lives, as well as in unmanned aircraft systems, which may transform global transportation, logistics systems, and countless industries over the coming decades.”

They mention medical and cancer research, stating that “In healthcare, the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot will rely on AI to find patterns in medical data and, ultimately, to help doctors diagnose diseases and suggest treatments to improve patient care and health outcomes.”

If you take a look at the US budget proposals for 2017 (suggestion: download the summary tables for the best side-by-side view of budget proposals) you’ll see if they “put their money where their mouth is” so to speak. In short, nothing tops the United State’s federal budget for Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, but the US defense budget follow’s quickly behind.

According to the Defense Department, they specifically want to invest at least $12-$15 billion in the year 2017 for developing end-game strategies. ““Artificial intelligence can help us with a lot of things that make warfighting faster, that make warfighting more predictable, that allow us to mine all of the data we have about an opponent to make better operational decisions,” he said. “But I’m leaving none of those decisions at this moment to the machine,” states US Air Force General Paul Selva earlier this year.

The full interview follows:

Do you think artificial intelligence will save lives, or is humanity playing a very dangerous game? Please share this news and comment your thoughts below!

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