Stephen Hawking Warned About The Perils Of Artificial Intelligence – Yet AI Gave Him A Voice


Published:

Stephen Hawking in front of sun with coronal mass ejections.

© Lwp Kommunikáció, Flickr CC

The late Stephen Hawking was a major voice in the debate about how humanity can benefit from artificial intelligence. Hawking made no secret of his fears that thinking machines could one day take charge. He went as far as predicting that future developments in AI “could spell the end of the human race.”

But Hawking’s relationship with AI was far more complex than this often-cited soundbite. The deep concerns he expressed were about superhuman AI, the point at which AI systems not only replicate human intelligence processes, but also keep expanding them, without our support – a stage that is at best decades away, if it ever happens at all. And yet Hawking’s very ability to communicate those fears, and all his other ideas, came to depend on basic AI technology.

Hawking’s Conflicted Relationship With AI

At the intellectual property and health law centers at DePaul University, my colleagues and I study the effects of emerging technologies like the ones Stephen Hawking worried about. At its core, the concept of AI involves computational technology designed to make machines function with foresight that mimics, and ultimately surpasses, human thinking processes.

Hawking cautioned against an extreme form of AI, in which thinking machines would “take off” on their own, modifying themselves and independently designing and building ever more capable systems. Humans, bound by the slow pace of biological evolution, would be tragically outwitted.

AI As A Threat To Humanity?

Well before it gets to the point of superhuman technology, AI can be put to terrible uses. Already, scholars and commentators worry that self-flying drones may be precursors to lethal autonomous robots.

Today’s early stage AI raises several other ethical and practical problems, too. AI systems are largely based on opaque algorithms that make decisions even their own designers may be unable to explain. The underlying mathematical models can be biased, and computational errors may occur. AI may progressively displace human skills and increase unemployment. And limited access to AI might increase global inequality.

The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, launched by Stanford University in 2014, highlighted some of these concerns. But so far it has identified no evidence that AI will pose any “imminent threat” to humankind, as Hawking feared.

Still, Hawking’s views on AI are somewhat less alarmist and more nuanced than he usually gets credit for. At their heart, they describe the need to understand and regulate emerging technologies. He repeatedly called for more research on the benefits and dangers of AI. And he believed that even non-superhuman AI systems could help eradicate war, poverty and disease.

Hawking Talks

This apparent contradiction – a fear of humanity being eventually overtaken by AI but optimism about its benefits in the meantime – may have come from his own life: Hawking had come to rely on AI to interact with the world.

Unable to speak since 1985, he used a series of different communication systems that helped him talk and write, culminating in the now-legendary computer operated by one muscle in his right cheek.

The first iteration of the computer program was exasperatingly slow and prone to errors. Very basic AI changed that. An open-source program made his word selection significantly faster. More importantly, it used artificial intelligence to analyze Hawking’s own words, and then used that information to help him express new ideas. By processing Hawking’s books, articles and lecture scripts, the system got so good that he did not even have to type the term people most associate with him, “the black hole.” When he selected “the,” “black” would automatically be suggested to follow it, and “black” would prompt “hole” onto the screen.

AI Improves People’s Health

Stephen Hawking’s experience with such a basic form of AI illustrates how non-superhuman AI can indeed change people’s lives for the better. Speech prediction helped him cope with a devastating neurological disease. Other AI-based systems are already helping prevent, fight and lessen the burden of disease.

For instance, AI can analyze medical sensors and other health data to predict how likely a patient is to develop a severe blood infection. In studies it was substantially more accurate – and provided much more advance warning – than other methods.

Another group of researchers created an AI program to sift through electronic health records of 700,000 patients. The program, called “Deep Patient,” unearthed linkages that had not been apparent to doctors, identifying new risk patterns for certain cancers, diabetes and psychiatric disorders.

AI has even powered a robotic surgery system that outperformed human surgeons in a procedure on pigs that’s very similar to one type of operation on human patients.

There’s so much promise for AI to improve people’s health that collecting medical data has become a cornerstone of both software development and public-health policy in the U.S. For example, the Obama White House launched a research effort seeking to collect DNA from at least a million Americans. The data will be made available for AI systems to analyze when studying new medical treatments, potentially improving both diagnoses and patients’ recovery.

All of these benefits from AI are available right now, and more are in the works. They do suggest that superhuman AI systems could be extremely powerful, but despite warnings from Hawking and fellow technology visionary Elon Musk that day may never come. In the meantime, as Hawking knew, there is much to be gained. AI gave him a better and more efficient voice than his body was able to provide, with which he called for both research and restraint.

Ana Santos Rutschman teaches and researches health law and intellectual property, innovation policy, law and science and incentives theory. For the past year she has been working on the intellectual property-related aspects of the development of the Ebola and Zika vaccines, having recently consulted for the World Health Organization on this topic.

This article was republished from The Conversation.

See also:
It’s A Turbulent World. Stop Stressing And Adapt.
EMF Overload: Tempest of the 21st Century

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

December 12, 2019

Minutes after midnight the “Cold” Moon is Full in Gemini. Trust may be tested, making a leap of faith a necessity. Faced with unknowns and other mysteries, there could be no other choice than to carry on as best as possible. The Moon then embarks on a…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2019

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

A beautiful collection of messages from Jeshua Ben Joseph (Jesus) that will transform your life, as it did his. Coming together to study these teachings, to ponder, to savor, to deepen our...

Cost: $25 per class

Where:
Heart and Soul Holistic Healing Center
130 Massapoag Avenue
Sharon, MA  02067
View map »


Sponsor: Heart and Soul Holistic
Telephone: 781-258-9942
Contact Name: Barbara Ann Strassman
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Show More...
Show Less...

What is a vigorous yoga practice, and who can benefit from it? With Marissa McAleer and Julie Rost This workshop will explore a more physical practice of yoga and how it can be used to...

Cost: $45

Where:
YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
View map »


Sponsor: YogaLife Institute of NH
Contact Name: Alice Bentley
Website »

More information

The Wellness Roundtable Holistic Practitioners Network creates an environment for wellness practitioners to inspire, educate and support one another, while building community and encouraging...

Cost: $20 (Drop-ins are welcome)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman St
#108B
Westborough, MA
View map »


Sponsor: 01581
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

How would it feel to have direct education on changing your feelings so you do start to ask for what you truly want? Each month, come and practice hands-on skills to get into the habit of...

Cost: $15

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The nights of December fall dark and early. Homes are filled with warm firelight and flickering candle glow. As the year draws to a close, pause under the peaceful light of December’s Full...

Cost: $10–15 suggested donation

Where:
A Touch of Magick
195 S Main Street
Uxbridge, MA
View map »


Telephone: (508) 779-7386
Website »

More information

Sound baths provide an opportunity to relax and journey into a healing, meditative and rejuvenating state. There is nothing you need to do, know or believe. Join us for a powerful, yet casual...

Cost: $25

Where:
Moth & Moon Studio
173 South River Rd
Suite #4
Bedford, NH  03110
View map »


Sponsor: Jeffrey Charles Warren
Contact Name: Jeffrey Warren
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Multi-skilled, and varied holistic practitioner group in Lincoln Area / Metro-West Boston welcomes new practitioner-members. Open invitation to any local practitioner, teacher, researcher,...

Cost: Free, or $5-$15

Where:
Member-homes/offices
Lincoln, MA  01773-4107


Sponsor: Lincoln Area Wellness Collaborative
Telephone: 781-738-1920
Contact Name: Jai Kaur

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

This is a class that will teach you how to make your own wire-wrapped gemstone pendant! Don’t be discouraged—it is simpler than you think, and you’ll have great fun in crafting...

Cost: $40 per person or $35 more than one, includes supplies

Where:
The Healing Power of Flowers — Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd, Unit A
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags