Cambridge to open Centre for Study of Existential Risk – Part 1

We stopped dreaming robots this morning and became conscious of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, where Sarah Montague interviewed Jaan Tallinn, one of the inventors of Skype of now one of the co-founders of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. (The whole programme can be heard, in the UK at least, here. Tallinn’s interview is about 1 hour and 45 minutes in.)

Details on the new Centre are still emerging (so look forward soon to a Part 2 to this post in the near-ish future), but they will seek to examine what they perceive to be the four greatest threats to the future of the human species:
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Climate Change
  • Nuclear War
  • Rogue Nanotechnology
At least two of these (AI and rogue nanotechnology) are of much interest to this blog, so we will eagerly await their findings and research. For now, I couldn’t help but notice the way this new Centre is being greeted in the press. 
Despite recent floods on both sides of the Atlantic and hysteria at the mere possibility of countries such as Iran developing nuclear technology (and despite a hint of incredulity in Montague’s questions – ‘Are you seriously?… at Cambridge?’), The Sun has gone with this angle:
Him. Again.

‘Terminator centre’ to open at Cambridge University: New faculty to study threat to humans from artificial intelligence

Their treatment focusses, unsurprisingly, almost exclusively on the threat posed by AGI and robots. (How happy we must be now, that Nuclear Armageddon seems so trivial. It wasn’t always so, those of us of a certain age might remember. I guess the films weren’t as interesting.)
Here, too, is the likewise completely not-overhyped reaction from The Daily Mail, printed the following day:

Let’s make sure he WON’T be back! Cambridge to open ‘Terminator centre’ to study threat to humans from artificial intelligence.

Let’s hope that the Centre’s future research is met with similar dispassionate scrutiny, and conveyed to the public in a similarly accurate manner.

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