A sinister threat is brewing deep inside the technology laboratories of Silicon Valley.

Artificial Intelligence, disguised as helpful digital assistants and self-driving vehicles, is gaining a foothold – and it could one day spell the end for mankind.

This is according to Stephen Hawking who has warned that humanity faces an uncertain future as technology learns to think for itself and adapt to its environment.

Read more of Hawkings views in this Daily Mail article.

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I think we will become extinct as a result of our misuse/abuse of the Earth's resources. The threat of AI is miniscule in comparison to the very real threat of disease and famine.....and most of all, lack of clean drinking water. These global threats imho deserve all the attention.

Is automation destroying the economy? If nobody has a job, and also has little or no money to spend, what will it mean for the economy?

Will Automation Lead to Economic Collapse?

Most of the agriculture and industrial jobs are already phased out by machines. Over 70% of jobs and labor is currently to find in the service sector, but also this sector is being phased out and replaced by automation which means decreased purchasing power of the general public. Just take a look at this.

Let's make an example as well. What exactly happens when people get automated by machines? They loose their jobs and need welfare to support themselves until they get a new job, if they ever do. But, where does welfare come from? It comes from tax payers. And do people on welfare pay taxes? They don't. So, what happens when everybody is on welfare due to automation and nobody pays taxes? This example is the reality in Michigan and the government there have been on the brink of shutting down due this exact issue. And we are beginning to see this never-ending spiral go out of control in the rest of the world. The trends are definitely there, but where's the solutions?

Is an economic collapse, in fact, an imminent event and a mathematical certainty, looking at the trends in Michigan and China? And is there a way out of this, looking at it in an economical perspective? (source)

The jobs as we know them and have known them are simply evolving and changing. The transferable skills people have will be utilized elsewhere. I do not think an economic collapse is imminent. I do think however that those who are not aware or prepared for the change will be left behind. I do think that the world as we know it will look vastly different in the next 50-100 years, assuming we do not run out of resources before then :(

I do think however that those who are not aware or prepared for the change will be left behind.

There are a lot of people who are best suited to production and assembly-line jobs. They aren't the brightest bulb in the box, they have no aptitude for math and science, and they don't bore easily. These are the people who will slowly increase the roles of the unemployed. Of course, we can decide that it's their role in the economy to be unemployed and pay them welfare, or we can insist that they just starve to death. Meanwhile, the thing killing production jobs is people from China to Thailand to Indonesia who will work for $2 or $3 an hour (and sometimes less). Meanwhile, if we chose to support unemployables with welfare, the pool of people to finance that effort is shrinking. Do you see how that slowly becomes unsustainable?

"Is an economic collapse, in fact, an imminent event and a mathematical certainty, looking at the trends in Michigan and China? And is there a way out of this, looking at it in an economical perspective?"

Technology in and of itself is not the problem. Unethical application of it could spell disaster. 

IMO western capitalism is not a sustainable economic model. The shortsighted goals of corporate profit at any cost and the demand for increasing consumerism will be it's eventual downfall. Our civilization will eventually be forced to take a reality check. The negative consequences of mankind's unbridled abuse of earth's resources will force us to change, eventually. I am not an economist and wonder if there could be a system whereby the needs of all earth's inhabitants are dealt with equitably. I don't think we will ever succeed as long as the planet is composed of individual nation states. I am not advocating a one world government necessarily but I can see where it's establishment could remove many of our current obstacles.  

I don't think we will ever succeed as long as the planet is composed of individual nation states. I am not advocating a one world government necessarily but I can see where it's establishment could remove many of our current obstacles. 

Whel then you're effectively advocating a one-world government.

Is increasing consumerism ultimately due to the greed of the corporations or the natural competitiveness of ordinary citizens? You don't really think they are such dupes that they want a bigger salary or a prettier car simply because Wall Street put that notion in their heads, do you?

No, that's the way people are, and even China and Cuba have had to accept that fact. Of course, you could cite the North Korea model, but I assume you don't want to do that.

I am of course very bias. I go for my electrician's interview Dec 18th!! (I passed the written exam with flying colors, Yaay!!!!) this is my ticket out of poverty....

I think this video is related to my original point of the changing economy:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=22YtlEp62pk

One thing that seems to be implicit (but never actually stated) in these discussions is that beings with artificial intelligence would have as one of their goals their own survival. This seems self-evident to us as it is one of our most basic functions but it has been "programmed" in from millions of years of evolution and is not a given for intelligent beings. It is not contradictory to envisage a highly intelligent being for whom its own survival is not a key goal.

If it came down to us versus them would artificial beings "care" enough to win. It seems to me that our survival instinct is based on emotion and while this could, of course, be instilled in an artificial being, it is not a given. If machines are going to eventually build machines would they build this drive for survival in? If so, why would they - what are the machine's motivations?

It is not contradictory to envisage a highly intelligent being for whom its own survival is not a key goal.

Taking "envisage" as an almost exact synonym for "imagine," I'm not sure I find being able to imagine robots or supercomputers with no sense of self-preservation or aspirations toward becoming powerful all that comforting. I'm not sure how you can.

The idea behind the fear of self-aware or conscious robots or computers is that feeling a want to avoid "death" (aka a desire for self-preservation) is part and parcel of being conscious. Look at any animal, no matter how primitive, as long as it can make non-instinctual decisions, and it will try to preserve its own existence and, to whatever degree it can, impose itself on its environment.

You're right all animals do act that way. That's because they have all been subject to the same process of evolution as we have. That is, as I'm sure you know, those with survival tendencies and skills (within the environment they live) have been selected and passed those to the next generation. My argument is that machines will not necessarily go through that sort of evolution because they have had a kick-start from us.

"to avoid "death" (aka a desire for self-preservation) is part and parcel of being conscious."

We don't know this to be true. The only conscious things we know of are things that have been through the process I described. Therefore they will all come out the other end fighting for survival. I ask again, what is the machine's motivation to fight for its own survival? Why won't it, however intelligent, just be indifferent to us "pulling the plug"? We only credit intelligent beings with an ability to avoid death because that's what they desire. There must be a perceived reward for a machine to avoid "death" otherwise it will not direct any energy towards that. I'm not saying machines won't be that way. Only that it cannot be taken for granted - and everyone seems to assume it's the case without discussing why they think that.

Maybe I didn't make my point very well. You're arguing that it might not turn out that artificially intelligent machines develop a sense of self-preservation.

I'm not arguing with you about that.

I'm talking about the other possibility. Hoping for the best is no way to become prepared.

Fair enough, I was nit-picking a bit. I dislike films and books where it is automatically assumed that once AI resides in a humanoid-like body, it will suddenly take on other human characteristics such as a desire to wipe out other species and take over the world.

However, it is likely that as we improve on machines we build into them some kind of mechanism for protection against injury (to save having to keep repairing them for one thing) and that would eventually manifest itself as a desire to "stay alive".

So, how to prepare? A difficult one. I think Google are doing the right thing setting up an ethics committee for this stuff but as we know from other threads, you can only police the lawful. There will always be some greedy idiot who takes no notice. I would advocate building into all machines some kind of fail-safe such as a device that responds to a radio frequency by melting the CPU. But once machines begin building machines, we have lost control. 

We tend to be reactive rather than pro-active as a species when it comes to these things and I hope that by the time it comes to react it is not too late.

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