We have always been fascinated by doomsday scenarios—from disease outbreaks to asteroid strikes, the healthy consideration of the end of the world as we know it has been the inspiration for everything from scientific papers to films. We are particularly drawn to asking who will be the unlikely hero in such an event; perhaps Will Smith or (more likely) scientists in a lab, or an engineer working on an innovative new technology.
The real Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock currently sits at two and a half minutes to midnight, due to our geopolitical situation, climate change and emerging technologies. If the clock strikes midnight darkness will descend, meaning humanity is on the brink of annihilation. The Doomsday Clock was originally designed to highlight how humanity is faring on planet Earth, specifically in relation to a nuclear threat, and over the decades since its inception other existential issues have been added to the doomsday scenarios, including climate change. A panel of experts meet annually to discuss their take on our plight, and push or pull the time closer towards or away from midnight. The ‘safest’ we have ever been was shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which took the clock hand to 23.45.
In Manchester, 70 years ago this year, the first programmable computer, nicknamed ‘Baby’, executed its first digital command. At the same time, the question of artificial intelligence was being mooted in conversations about ‘intelligent machines’ between Alan Turing and Grey Walter—and so began the quest to create AI. In the early 21st century, our fascination with the possibility of artificial intelligence, and its ubiquity across all areas of our lives, has led to a proliferation in research into its realisation. Alongside this increase in the inevitable cross-society utilisation of AI, has grown a collection of doomsday warnings from prominent global characters, particularly Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Nick Bostrom, as to where all of this will lead.
Project Doomsday – The Intelligent Machine Chapter!
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