European experts to research real robotic threats to humanity

Just days after we told you about an organization working to prevent robot drones from becoming autonomous death machines, a new organization has been announced along a similar theme: Ensuring the survival of humanity in the face or newly intelligent machines.

Founded by philosophy professor Huw Price, cosmology and astrophysics scientist Martin Rees, and early Skype software developer Jaan Tallinn, the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is a new research project devoted to studying the ongoing risks to humanity presented by artificial life, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and climate change. But despite the project's broad focus — housed at Cambridge University in the U.K. — it's getting the most attention for its focus on artificial intelligence and what possible threats the advances in that arena could present to humanity.

In recent years, talk of a robot threat to the future of mankind has generally been dismissed as a science fiction scenario. But increasingly real scientists and software engineers are coming around to the notion that intelligent machines are a real issue that humans will have to grapple with at some point in the not too distant future.

In a recent interview Price said in a release:

"It seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology... [Such risks tend] to be regarded as a flakey concern, but given that we don't know how serious the risks are, that we don't know the time scale, dismissing the concerns is dangerous. What we're trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community."

The official launch of the research center is scheduled for some time in 2013.


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