3/1/11 3:49 AMScientists Worry Machines May Outsmart Man - NYTimes.comPage 2 of 3http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/26/science/26robot.html?_r=2&ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=print
The researchers also discussed possible threats to human jobs, like self-driving cars, software- based personal assistants and service robots in the home. Just last month, a service robotdeveloped by Willow Garage in Silicon Valley proved it could navigate the real world. A report from the conference, which took place in private on Feb. 25, isto be issued later this year. Some attendees discussed the meeting for the first time with other scientists this month andin interviews.The conference was organized by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence,and in choosing Asilomar for the discussions, the group purposefully evoked a landmark event inthe history of science. In 1975, theworld’s leading biologists also met at Asilomarto discuss thenew ability to reshape life by swapping genetic material among organisms. Concerned aboutpossible biohazards and ethical questions, scientists had halted certain experiments. Theconference led to guidelines for recombinant DNA research, enabling experimentation tocontinue.The meeting on the future of artificial intelligence was organized by Eric Horvitz, aMicrosoftresearcher who is now president of the association.Dr. Horvitz said he believed computer scientists must respond to the notions of superintelligentmachines and artificial intelligence systems run amok.The idea of an “intelligence explosion” in which smart machines would design even moreintelligent machines was proposed by the mathematician I. J. Good in 1965. Later, in lectures andscience fiction novels, the computer scientist Vernor Vinge popularized the notion of a moment when humans will create smarter-than-human machines, causing such rapid change that the“human era will be ended.” He called this shiftthe Singularity .This vision, embraced in movies and literature, is seen as plausible and unnerving by somescientists like William Joy, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. Other technologists, notably Raymond Kurzweil, have extolled the coming of ultrasmart machines, saying they will offer hugeadvances in life extension and wealth creation.“Something new has taken place in the past five to eight years,” Dr. Horvitz said. “Technologistsare providing almost religious visions, and their ideas are resonating in some ways with the sameidea of the Rapture.”The Kurzweil version of technological utopia has captured imaginations in Silicon Valley. Thissummer an organization called the Singularity University began offering courses to prepare a“cadre” to shape the advances and help society cope with the ramifications.