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James Lovelock: ‘Before the end of this century, robots will have taken over’

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He's 97 and still predicting.

Sometimes described as a futurist, Lovelock has been Britain’s leading independent scientist for more than 50 years. His Gaia hypothesis, which contends that the earth is a single, self-regulating organism, is now accepted as the founding principle of most climate science, and his invention of a device to detect CFCs helped identify the hole in the ozone layer. A defiant generalist in an era of increasingly specialised study, and a mischievous provocateur, Lovelock is regarded by many as a scientific genius.


But all this, he clarifies cheerfully, is more or less academic. “Because quite soon – before we’ve reached the end of this century, even – I think that what people call robots will have taken over.” Robots will rule the world? “Well, yes. They’ll be in charge.” In charge of us? “Yes, if we’re still here. Whether they’ll have taken over peacefully or otherwise, I have no idea.”

For robots, time happens a million times faster than it does for us. That’s rather wonderful in a way, isn’t it?

He isn’t alone in this view: the influential philosopher Nick Bostrom has persuaded many people that artificial intelligence poses a real threat to the future of humanity; Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, among others, have called for urgent research to mitigate the risks. Still, when Lovelock outlines this vision, his tone is so matter-of-fact that for a moment I wonder if he’s joking. He isn’t. “We’re already happily letting computers design themselves. This has been going on for some time now, particularly with chips, and it’s not going to be long before that’s out of our hands, and we’ll be standing aside and saying, ‘Oh well, it’s doing a good job designing itself, let’s encourage it.’” Computers will develop independent volition and intuition (“To some extent, they already have”) and become capable of reproducing themselves, and of evolving. “Oh yes, that’s crucial. We’ll have a world where Darwin’s working.” Darwinism doesn’t work now? “Oh no, we’ve temporarily turned Darwinism backwards. I mean, we preserve the ones that would not have survived.”

before the end of this century robots will have taken over

Source is the Road to Superintelligence:

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