Almost Half of Britons Think Robots Could Threaten the Existence of the Human Race

Tuesday, 01 September 2015 - 4:14PM
Technology
Tuesday, 01 September 2015 - 4:14PM
Almost Half of Britons Think Robots Could Threaten the Existence of the Human Race
Worries about the robopocalypse are hardly fringe anymore, as some of the greatest minds in the world have expressed concern that our species could meet our untimely end as a result of artificial intelligence. SpaceX founder and all-around genius Elon Musk has made several inflammatory claims, including that creating AI is akin to "summoning the demon," and recently donated $10 million to make sure AI doesn't kill us all, while none other than Stephen Hawking made waves when he claimed that AI could spell the end of the human race.

But does the average citizen believe that artificial intelligence is, indeed, a threat? According to a new survey from Sky News, almost half do, at least in Great Britain, as 43% of respondents agreed with the assertion that "artificially intelligent robots and computers could threaten the existence of the human race."

Surprisingly, people were not nearly as concerned about robots taking over their jobs; only 30% of people thought it was "likely" and 59% thought it was "unlikely." People in urban areas tended to be less worried about the possibility of robot replacements, while people in more industrialized areas were more concerned. 

But arguably the strangest results predictably surrounded our interpersonal relations with the robots, and their personhood status. Only 12% believed that robots should have rights under the law if they "showed equal intelligence to humans," while 63% actively disagreed. There was also an interesting gender disparity in certain results: approximately 15% of men and only 2-4% of women believed that they could have a fulfilling emotional relationship with a robot, that they could have a fulfilling sexual relationship with a robot, and that they would trust an artificially intelligent robot to look after a child without supervision.

These results surprise me greatly, although the vagueness of the questions may be a factor. In the case of the rights question, the survey doesn't specify whether the robots have emotions, which might have changed the answers. The same goes for the sexual, emotional, and child-rearing questions, which would likely make a huge difference. In the latter cases, they only pose the hypothetical, "If the technology were sufficiently advanced," which could mean anything.

But even with all of these anxieties surrounding artificial intelligence, AI could still transform society for the better, according to Nick Bostrom, an Oxford professor and one of the biggest names in AI alarmism. Bostrom is famous for claiming that we will someday create a superintelligence, or an AI that learns to self-improve and therefore becomes exponentially more intelligent than humans, which will take over the world and possibly pose a greater threat to humanity than global warming

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"If we one day develop machines that are superior to us in terms of general intelligence, then this machine super-intelligence might be in a very strong position to shape the future according to its preferences," Bostrom told Sky News. "And hopefully those preferences will be aligned with ours and it will be a great win. It will be something as important as the rise of homo sapiens."
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Science
Artificial Intelligence
Technology

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