Stanford 100 Year Study Says Robots Won’t Try to Kill Us


People have been fearful of the misuse of science for a long, long time. For example, Frankenstein was written when the author had become inspired by a comment regarding galvanism, which was the use of electric currents to cause muscles to contract. While it sounds so commonplace that it causes us to lose interest, the practice must have come as a serious shock to the people of the time, who would have seen corpses moving under what must have seemed like their own power. Something that explains much of the concern that colors the whole of the famous narrative that is Frankenstein.

As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that when the concept of robots became popularized, the concept of killer robots soon became popularized as well. In fact, the concept of killer robots became more and more popular as people understood more and more about the extent to which artificial intelligences could outperform their natural counterparts in certain respects, so much so that the media has become flooded with them, as shown by series including but not limited to The Matrix, The Terminator, and Battlestar Galactica.

However, there have been more skeptical views of the concept of killer robots as well. For example, Westworld is a new TV show on HBO that examines the ethics of the use of robots for human entertainment, with the result that it shows them in a much more sympathetic light than series based on killer robots. Furthermore, there have been studies that have expressed skepticism of robots killing humans sometime soon in the future, with Stanford’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence being a perfect example.

What Is the Stanford 100 Year Study on Artificial Intelligence?

Like its name suggests, the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence is meant to be a multi-decade effort to examine the impact of artificial intelligence on human societies, which is rather appropriate because artificial intelligence is one of those rare technologies with the potential to change how we live in a fundamental manner. For now, it is headed by a committee of experts in relevant fields headed by a Stanford alumnus and a Stanford professor, who are responsible for finding out the most compelling topics at a particular point in time so that more experts in relevant fields can be brought together to examine the issue in further detail. By using this process, the study seeks to shed some light on the challenges as well as the concerns that will be facing human societies confronted with real artificial intelligences of the sort that still remain science fiction at the moment, thus making the process that much smoother.

Stanford accepted the proposal to host the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence in 2014, so it should come as no surprise to learn that the 2016 report is the first to have been published. As was proposed, the people who put the study together focused on the topics that were most compelling, with the result that they focused on topics such as education, entertainment, healthcare, and transportation, which are serious issues that will come up within the near future. However, the part that should interest those who are concerned about killer robots the most is the conclusion that there will be no such thing in the near future.

Why Does the Stanford 100 Year Study Say Robots Won’t Try to Kill Us?

To be precise, the study concluded that artificial intelligence is not an imminent threat to humanity. In main, it supports this conclusion by pointing to the fact that no machine with self-sustaining, long-term goals has been created in spite of significant interest from a fair number of parties, meaning that killer robots cannot exist when robots in the popular understanding of the concept are not something that have been brought into existence so far. Furthermore, the study sees no reason to believe that such robots will be created sometime in the near future because the existing technologies are far from being capable of supporting such a thing. As a result, while the study does not say whether killer robots will ever be a thing or not because that is beyond the time scope of the 2016 report, it concludes that they won’t be making an immediate appearance on the world stage.

With that said, just because killer robots won’t be seeing their debut sometime soon, that does not mean that robots will not be posing a threat to humans. After all, the study points out that robots will be becoming advanced enough to replace their human counterparts in a wide range of roles, which is something that will cause enormous disruption to human societies. This is because businesses will face enormous pressure to start using new machines that will not just cut their costs but also make their operations more effective and efficient, not lest because the advantages for other businesses that choose to start making use of them will force them to follow a similar path or be rendered incapable of competing in the process. When the people who used to perform in those roles are laid off, that will result in a fair amount of suffering, which will have both economic, political, and social implications for human societies throughout the world. While said problems will not be insurmountable, their solutions will require an enormous commitment of effort and other resources, meaning that they have a high chance of causing long-lasting issues.

Final Thoughts

The One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence will continue to publish new reports as time passes. As a result, it should prove a fruitful source of interesting discussion in times still to come. For that matter, while it concluded that killer robots are not an imminent threat, that does not mean that the chances of their coming to be will not increase in the far future. However, so long as the people behind this study as well as other experts in relevant fields continue to keep a close eye on the emerging field of artificial intelligence, it seems that humanity will have a good chance of reaping the benefits without running afoul of the metaphorical landmines in the process.


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