Professor Hawking joined the 2017 Web Summit’s opening night by delivering a keynote speech on artificial intelligence (AI), wherein he stressed the potential of AI to transform the general human condition, and also touched upon the need for ethics and controllability in the development of AI.
“We cannot predict what we might achieve when our own minds are amplified by AI. Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one, industrialization. We will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed,” Professor Hawkins said.
“We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be and you are the pioneers.”
The packed Altice Arena in Lisbon held 15,000 people on the opening night.
Hawking addressed the opening night audience via video. He was invited to speak at the Web Summit by Feedzai, an AI company specializing in fraud prevention.
While there are many benefits that could potentially arise from AI in the future, the author of The Universe in a Nutshell also touched upon the potential risks that could accompany the innovation of AI. He said:
“I am an optimist and I believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us. We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance. Perhaps some of you listening today will already have solutions or answers to the many questions AI poses.”
AI is already permeating every aspect of our lives.
Concluding, Paddy Cosgrave, the Web Summit CEO, praised the wheelchair-bound professor Hawking saying that what he said should be taken seriously, as AI is like a double-edged sword, bearing both the potential to bring good to humanity, as well as the possibility to do harm.
AI is no longer a mere fiction of the entertainment media, but an actual thing that is slowly but surely seeping into our everyday lives.
“AI could be the greatest or the worst thing to happen our society since the industrial revolution. Regulation and agreed ethical practices are essential to ensure we protect the rights of all in society because this is not the future, this is the now. AI is already permeating into every aspect of our lives”, Cosgrave concluded.
Virtual personal assistants, like Siri and Alexa, are now integrated into video games, smart cars, online customer support, news generation, and smart home devices, just to name a few.
Many of us are using AI on a daily base without even realizing it.