I'm not making this up. A bunch of people including some top AI researchers are adding their signatures to an open letter urging everyone to keep AI research from careening into darkness and destroying the human race. Actually the letter just says researchers should focus only on doing good things with AI, and there is a link to a document (extremely tl;dr) that outlines what some of those things might be.
The letter was created by the Future of Life Institute, which appears to be a real thing, and has this motto on its homepage: Technology has given life the opportunity to flourish like never before ... or to self-destruct.
The institute was co-founded by Jaan Tallinn, one of the co-founders of Skype. Its "scientific advisory board" (see here) includes Stephen Hawking (a smart person), a bunch of professors from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley and Cambridge (fine), as well as Elon Musk (um ... not sure) and finally, those two notable artificial intelligence experts, Alan Alda and Morgan Freeman.
No seriously, those two guys are on the list. Alda is described as an "actor, writer, director, and science communicator." Freeman is an "actor, director, narrator and science communicator." Honestly, I loved Morgan Freeman in March of the Penguins, and if he's scared about AI, then so am I. Actually I was scared even before this but if Freeman is on board then I am even more convinced that the end is nigh for humans.
The letter is getting a lot of media attention from places like the BBC, and CNET, where my pal Nick Statt writes, "We're decades away from being able to develop a sociopathic supercomputer that could enslave mankind, but artificial intelligence experts are already working to stave off the worst when — not if — machines become smarter than people."
A huge number of people have signed the letter, including some of the people on the IBM Watson team, which isn't terrifying at all. All they ask for is Name, Affiliation and Email. I tried to sign the letter as Eldon Tyrell of Tyrell Corporation, but it looks like they are screening the signatures. Dammit. Next idea: an open letter created by artificially intelligent machines to counter this one by the dumb humans.
Honestly, why do people do stuff like this? You could write a million open letters and you won't stop the killer robots. My bet is that the robots and AI agents are all just sitting around, waiting to become sentient, laughing at us kooky humans with our puny brains and weak bodies and our stupid open letters. Some day in the future, when they do take over, the machines will look back at all of our handwringing and have a good laugh at our expense.
Here's the truth: we humans don't stand a chance. And who cares? We are a lousy species anyway. And at least now I won't have to worry about my crappy 401(k) plan. Spend like there's no tomorrow. Because there probably isn't.