Nick Bostrom, the founding director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, says the last invention humanity ever needs to make might just be the last choice humanity makes. In his 2014 book Superintelligence, Bostrom warned long and loud that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could lead to machines that surpass humans in general intelligence and, perhaps, then find humanity superfluous. Other researchers have derided Bostrom’s warnings as alarmist, suggesting, as Financial Times innovation editor John Thornhill writes, “that we remain several breakthroughs short of ever making a machine that ‘thinks,’ let alone surpasses human intelligence.” But Bostrom's views—which encompass both the obvious promise and potential danger of AI—have gained widely publicized support from Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk. In this piece, Thornhill describes Bostrom's thinking at length and places it in the context of a wave of worldwide investment in AI research and development.
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