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Humanity’s last invention and our uncertain future

November 25, 2012

A philosopher, a scientist and a software engineer have come together to propose a new centre at Cambridge to address developments in human technologies that might pose “extinction-level” risks to our species, from biotechnology to artificial intelligence.

In 1965, Irving John ‘Jack’ Good sat down and wrote a paper for New Scientist called Speculations concerning the first ultra-intelligent machine. Good, a Cambridge-trained mathematician, Bletchley Park cryptographer, pioneering computer scientist and friend of Alan Turing, wrote that in the near future an ultra-intelligent machine would be built.

This machine, he continued, would be the “last invention” that mankind will ever make, leading to an “intelligence explosion” – an exponential increase in self-generating machine intelligence. For Good, who went on to advise Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey, the “survival of man” depended on the construction of this ultra-intelligent machine.

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