Control AI now or brace for nightmare future, experts warn

Elon Musk: We should regulate AI to keep public safe
Elon Musk: We should regulate AI to keep public safe

Rogue states, criminals and terrorists could use artificial intelligence to wreak havoc around the world, according to a new report.

More than two dozen experts from top universities and research organizations in the US and the UK wrote the alarming report about the malicious use of AI, which was published Wednesday by Cambridge University.

"For many decades hype outstripped fact in terms of AI and machine learning. No longer," said Seán Ó hÉigeartaigh, a Cambridge academic who is one of the authors.

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The report warns that artificial intelligence could usher in a new wave of cyberattacks in which computers use speech technology to impersonate targets or carry out "superhuman hacking" by taking control of drones, driverless vehicles or even autonomous weapons systems on the battlefield.

Some of the predictions sound like dystopian nightmares taken straight from a Hollywood movie or an episode of "Black Mirror."

The report is the latest in a series of warnings about the potential consequences of the rapid development of artificial intelligence.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin predicted in September that whoever becomes the leader in AI will become the ruler of the world.

Shortly after that, Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk issued a dire warning, suggesting the race between different countries for AI superiority could cause a new world war.

Cambridge's Ó hÉigeartaigh described a somewhat less apocalyptic vision.

"We live in a world that could become fraught with day-to-day hazards from the misuse of AI," he said in a statement. "We need to take ownership of the problems -- because the risks are real."

The report, which was also backed by Musk's Open AI research institute and the Center for a New American Security, isn't all doom and gloom.

The authors acknowledge AI has many potential benefits, but they are urging governments and companies to take steps now to reduce the risks of it being misused.

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Their recommendations include stepping up cybersecurity, greater collaboration between lawmakers and experts, and for AI researchers to game out scenarios in which things go wrong.

The report comes amid growing enthusiasm for AI from governments and tech executives.

China has said it wants to be a global leader in the frontier technology, vowing to build a $150 billion AI industry in the next few years. And Masayoshi Son, the billionaire CEO of Japan's SoftBank (SFTBF), has repeatedly said that singularity -- the moment when computers and artificial intelligence will surpass mankind -- is on the horizon.

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