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Revolt by killer robots worries scientists

A still from the movie 'Terminator: The Rise of the Machines'

WASHINGTON (PTI): 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 today.

"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 mankind.


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