Google's Eric Schmidt Snarks At The Idea That Killer Robots Will Decimate Humanity

Eric SchmidtAPEric Schmidt.

To anyone worried about killer robots taking over society, Google chairman Eric Schmidt says relax.

“These fears are normal,” Schmidt said (via Wired) while speaking at an FT conference. “They’re also to some degree misguided.”

Schmidt was also quoted as saying that artificial intelligence taking over society would have to happen “while we’re not watching … last time I checked, we had the power cord in our hands.”

This seems like a brazen attitude, frankly. The idea is that if a robot truly gains intelligence, then we will no longer have the power cord. The robot would be smart enough to control its own actions.

Google has been heavily investing in robotics and artificial intelligence. Machine learning is a part of almost everything Google does, from its search algorithm to its ambitious self-driving cars to its robots that are learning Karate Kid-type moves.

Silicon Valley’s leaders don’t all have the same attitude about artificial intelligence or robots. Elon Musk, for instance, recently said the following:

The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five year timeframe. 10 years at most. This is not a case of crying wolf about something I don’t understand.

I am not alone in thinking we should be worried. The leading AI companies have taken great steps to ensure safety. The recognise the danger, but believe that they can shape and control the digital superintelligences and prevent bad ones from escaping into the Internet. That remains to be seen … 

Stephen Hawking recently warned: “The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

This a good discussion to be having. For a while, scientists in the robotics community were scared to even discuss doomsday scenarios because they didn’t want to seem like delusional cranks.

Schmidt seemed to focus his talk about robots on a smaller concern: That they would take our jobs. According to Wired, he said technological progress displaces jobs but also helps people: “There’s lots of evidence that when computers show up, wages go up. There’s lots of evidence that people who work with computers are paid more than people without.”

But Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor, recently said that concerns about losing (or gaining) jobs were a little silly

He likened it to aliens. He said that if aliens landed visited our planet, we wouldn’t ask, “Are they going to take our jobs?” We would ask, “Are they friendly?” Likewise, that should be the first question we ask when thinking about the long-term implications of smart robots.

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