The long read (28 March) on the threat from artificial intelligence misses the point. In a paper written in 1951, Alan Turing demolished all the arguments against AI one day surpassing human intelligence, but there is no sign that that “singularity” is on the horizon. The imminent threat is that we’ve built a digital society on software foundations that are too vulnerable to failures and cyber-attacks, as a recent report from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre oversight board powerfully illustrated. The risk that humanity faces comes not from malevolent machines but from incompetent programmers who leave their customers vulnerable to cyber-attacks and other failures.
If we survive long enough to see truly intelligent machines, then there is no known barrier to them developing consciousness. But how could we tell?
Emeritus professor of IT, Gresham College, London
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