Stephen Hawking Sees AI As The Potential 'Worst Event' In Human Civilization

Stephen Hawking, one of the brightest minds of all time, believes that artificial intelligence can not only be developed to match the human brain in its ability to solve problems, but exceed it. If used in the right manner, AI has can transform every aspect of our lives and undo the damage to the natural world caused by the industrial revolution, Hawking says. However, there is also the potential for something catastrophic.

"Every aspect of our lives will be transformed [by AI]. In short, success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization, or the worst. We just don't know," Hawking said during the opening night of Web Summit 2017 in Lison, Portugal.

Stephen Hawking

Hawking is not the only high profile figure to address the potential downside of AI development. Tesla founder Elon Musk suggested that AI could be more deadly than a nuclear war, saying in a Twitter post, "If you're not concerned about AI, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea." Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg disagrees with the doom and gloom scenarios, but according to Musk, his "understanding of the subject is limited,"

Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of Shark Tank, is another high profile figure who believes there is plenty of danger lurking behind developments in AI. In no uncertain terms, he said, "It scares the s**t out of me."

Hawking's own concerns do not overshadow his believe that AI can accomplish wonderful things. Instead, he believes we need to focus on where to direct our efforts in AI, rather than just advancing the technology without a specific goal in mind.

"Perhaps we should all stop for a moment and focus our thinking on not only making AI more capable and successful, but maximizing its societal benefit," Hawkings said.

If we are not prepared for what AI can bring to the table, Hawkings says it can destroy humankind, such as by weaponizing AI, allowing the few to oppress the many, and disrupting the economy in part by forking over more jobs to machines that were previously performed by humans, to give a few examples.