Dr. Stephen Hawking: AI could be 'the worst event in the history of our civilization'

Stephen Hawking, PhD, said during an appearance Monday at the Web Summit technology conference artificial intelligence could potentially become "the worst event in the history of our civilization" if scientists and researchers do not effectively manage the technology and share best practices, CNBC reports.

During his speech at the conference, which is taking place Nov. 6 through Nov. 9 in Lisbon, Portugal, Dr. Hawking said computers will be able to emulate human intelligence and potentially exceed it. The future of AI, Dr. Hawking said, is uncertain.

"Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don't know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it," Dr. Hawking said.

"Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization. It brings dangers, like powerful autonomous weapons, or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy," he added.

However, despite the uncertainty surrounding its development and uses, Dr. Hawking said he hopes scientists and researchers will create AI that can help reverse the damage humans have caused.

"I am an optimist and I believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us," Dr. Hawking said. "We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance."

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