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Artificial intelligence: Debunking the myths

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Artificial intelligence: Debunking the myths

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Could robots and artificial intelligence one day take over the human race?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to eradicate disease and poverty, but scientists say researchers must not create something uncontrollable.

Experts have now signed an open letter calling on scientists to take care to avoid the potential ‘pitfalls’ of such technology.

The letter was signed by famous physicist Stephen Hawking, Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, along with some of the top minds from many universities, including Harvard.

Francesca Rossi, professor of Computer Science at Padua and Harvard universities, was among those to sign the letter. Euronews asked why so many scientists felt the need to put pen to paper.

Professor Francesca Rossi:

“Some say we shouldn’t worry… That the machines are not absolutely intelligent. But others claim machines will soon be as intelligent as a human being – perhaps more so – and they may turn against us, etc.

Neither extreme position is reasonable. It is reasonable to take a constructive approach to the subject, to try to build more intelligent machines, to check their behaviours and to pay attention to security. So, this letter and the much longer document associated with it were written with precisely this intention: to be constructive and to encourage research projects in artificial intelligence. But also in other disciplines, such as philosophy, psychology, economics, etc. This will lead to the construction of intelligent, but also safe, machines.”

Claudio Rocco, euronews:

“And now a bit of a leading question. Could these intelligent machines one day overwhelm man? We are limited by the laws of biology, but, one day, could we see robots crushing men?”

Professor Francesca Rossi:

“I don’t see how such a catastrophic scenario could naturally emerge from these machines. They will be able to change their behaviour over time, but within the boundaries of what was encoded within them in the beginning. There is, however, certainly a need to build intelligent machines that can be checked.”


“Looking at situations such as the one played out in the film ‘Her’, where a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his computer operating system: would this really be possible? Or is it purely science fiction?”

Professor Francesca Rossi:

“There are already machines capable of interacting with humans. Robots that keep elderly or sick people company, for example. By interacting with people in a similar way to other humans, they can, in a way, empathise. I don’t think, however, that all the evolution we see in the film is something that can happen soon.”


“The open letter also warns that legislative efforts are needed before ‘driverless cars’ can be come practical and ubiquitous. But could they really be dangerous?”

Professor Francesca Rossi:

“Let’s imagine the technology is ready and the machines are ready to drive on the road and can save the lives of many who die in car accidents caused by distractions. What is still missing is to understand how they could be regulated. The important thing is to know who is responsible for the decisions the machines take, whatever they do.”

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