Artificial Intelligence – Our last invention?

From Terminator to iRobot, Hollywood has long dramatised the rise of machines, but is science fiction starting to become a bit too real?

At the end of last year Stephen Hawking made a bold statement that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” But will full AI really be our last invention? It may seem far off but developments in AI are already advancing – meet Bina 48, a robot created by Martine Rothblatt using brain data, including information, memories, attitudes and beliefs taken from her wife Bina Rothblatt. As she evolves and learns Bina 48 is continuing to become more and more functional, learning more and starting to think for herself. Just a scary glimpse into the future evolution of AI.

Scary as they may seem however, machines of the future could help save millions of lives, relieving many of the world’s problem on unimaginable scales; helping to create an abundance of resources in parts of the world where they are in short supply, producing crops and operating on patients in third-world countries where they don’t have the expertise, to name some of the plethora of potential benefits.

But will handing over tasks such as these to machines and teaching them to evolve and think for themselves, such as Bina 48, be the seed of our own destruction? Many scientists believe that in as little as a few of decades, we will become so dependent on machines run by AI that they eventually make us redundant and take over. Once we develop machines that become smarter than humans are we just handing things over to them?

“One day, artificial intelligence will look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa: Upright apes, ready for extinction.” This may be a line from the film Ex Machina, but is this really a more accurate glimpse into the future than we’d like to imagine?