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Stephen Hawking Versus the Robot Apocalypse

Barring the arrival of a certain laconic Austrian killing machine, he just might be our best bet.

by Brian Merchant
Jan 11 2013, 8:59pm

The faux apocalypse has passed, praise Xenu, but there are plenty of real ones left to worry about. That's precisely what the folks at the Cambridge Project for Existential Risk do—they're full time doomsday worriers. And they're getting an influential addition to their team: Stephen Hawking, the world's most famous living scientist, will be joining CPER to ponder once and future calamities. And, ideally, to help map out an avoidance strategy or two.

Fast Company reports:

Stephen Hawking, who turns 71 today, has joined the board of an international think tank devoted to defending humanity from futuristic threats. The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk is a newly founded organization which researches existential threats to humanity such as extreme climate change, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, artificial life, nanotech, and other emerging technologies. Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn and Cambridge professors Huw Price and Martin Rees founded the project in late 2012.

If you recall, CPER was founded last November with the aim of developing strategies to cope with accelerating artificial intelligence, and the specter of the singularity in particular.

Huw Price told the Daily Mail at the initial announcement that an "ultra-intelligent machine, or artificial general intelligence (AGI)’ could have very serious consequences. Nature didn’t anticipate us, and we in our turn shouldn’t take AGI for granted. We need to take seriously the possibility that there might be a ‘Pandora’s box’ moment with AGI that, if missed, could be disastrous."

And now Mr. Hawking's going to be devoting some of his brain-space to preventing the robot apocalypse. Barring the arrival of a certain laconic Austrian killing machine, he just might be our best bet.