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Swiss scientists warn of robot Armageddon

The robot that learns by itself   
February 18, 1998
Web posted at: 3:19 p.m. EST (2019 GMT)

From Correspondent Patricia Kelly

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- Could artificially intelligent robots signal the end of the human race? Some Swiss scientists say such a threat may be closer than we think.

Their doom and gloom talk was prompted by one of their own creations: an autonomous robot that learns from its environment.

Within a few minutes, the microprocessor based robot can learn not to bump into a barrier. No one programs the robot's actions, and its creator isn't exactly sure how it will behave in any given situation.

Within 10 years, they predict that similar but more advanced machines, equipped with artificial intelligence, will be as clever as humans. Soon after, they say, the man-made objects could become more intelligent than their creators -- and capable of taking over.

"Next century's global politics will be dominated by the question of should humanity build ultra-intelligent machines or not," said Hugo de Garis, who's already created an artificially intelligent machine.


"In fact, I'm going so far as saying there will be major warfare between these two major groups, one saying building machines is the destiny of the human species, something people should do and the other group saying it's too dangerous," de Garis said.

Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics -- the science of comparing biological and computerized brains -- agrees that thinking robots could be dangerous.

"I can't see any reason why machines will not be more intelligent than humans in the next 20 to 30 years and that is an enormous threat," Warwick said.

De Garis speculates that the robots might soon tire of their human creators.

"We could never be sure these artellects, as we call them -- artificial intellects -- wouldn't decide that humanity is a pest and try to exterminate us, and they'd be so intelligent they could do it easily," de Garis said.

Warwick has even gloomier premonitions.

"We're talking in the future the end of the human race as we know it," Warwick said.

The day when robots no longer do what we want them to may already be here.

De Garis' machine quickly decided it was camera shy and refused to be filmed by a CNN crew.

Shy or not, only time will tell if these artificially intelligent machines will evolve enough to bring about our demise.


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