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AI experts warn groundbreaking new tech could spark ‘nuclear-scale’ catastrophe

Artificial Intelligence has already changed our world, but many experts fear that it could go on to destroy it.

Over a third of AI researchers around the world say that faulty decisions made by artificially-intelligent systems could cause a catastrophe on a par with all-out nuclear war in this century.

A survey of AI experts, carried out by Julian Michael at the New York University Center for Data Science revealed that 36% of them thought AI could potentially trigger a major disaster before 2030.

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Already, AI has found its way into almost all of our homes, and a good many of our cars.

Devices such as Alexa, smartphones, drones and partially or completely self-driving cars are all powered by AI. Facial recognition software has dramatically influenced law enforcement.

We encounter simple AI though many call centres, too, and Google is working on an AI assistant that can make phone calls on your behalf, sounding like you in mannerisms as well as basic tone.

Most dramatically of all, of course, AI is present in many cutting-edge military systems.

Large-scale “swarms” of AI -controlled weaponised drones will soon be used be able to attack bases or ships so rapidly that no human defender will be able to fight them, a senior US military expert has warned.

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General John Murray, head of US Army Futures Command, said: ”When you are defending against a drone swarm, a human may be required to make that first decision, but I am just not sure any human can keep up.”

But what happens when the systems go wrong? Even a simple phone call can have catastrophic consequences.

“There have already been several instances where AI has caused harm,” AI expert Matthew Kershaw told the Daily Star, “and as it becomes more widespread, the potential for problems may increase”.

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Matthew is VP Marketing & Growth at D-ID, a company that uses Deepfake technology to create instant videos from simple images and texts.

The technology is used mainly by business leaders to create professional-looking presentations without the need for a complex studio setup, but the same advanced AI capabilities could be used to spread disinformation across the world – causing political mayhem.

Deepfakes have already started World War 3 online, and are responsible for the "corrosion of reality", expert Nina Schick told the Daily Star.

Nina says that war “will be be less and less about armies crossing borders".

“Although,” she adds ships planes and tanks will still do battle, but be "more powered by AI."

She predicts: “There will be more use of autonomous drones, and killer robots and …the part that I’m most interested in, that I look at in the book, is information warfare.

“Warfare will be about controlling narratives, swaying public opinion one way or another – what’s going on now is that the nature of war is changing so quickly that we haven’t caught up to it.”

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In October 2018, Zeng Yi, a senior executive at the Chinese defense firm Norinco, gave a speech in which he said that "In future battlegrounds, there will be no people fighting", and that the use of lethal autonomous weapons in warfare is “inevitable"

Which sounds like good news, until we remember how often computers can give us a result we didn’t want.

And the threat of a rogue AI weapon need not come from a nation state. Former Pentagon AI weapons expert Paul Scharre warns that someone could soon build “a simple, autonomous weapon in their garage”.

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He says the potential is almost here: ”These tools are available for free download. You can download them online," he says.

"[It] took me about three minutes online to find all of the free tools you would need to download this technology and make it happen."

Astronomer Royal Lord Rees has warned that this could be mankind's 'last century on Earth' and that that mankind would almost certainly be “superseded” by artificially intelligent super-robots within the next millennium

But Matthew Kershaw says that AI is just a tool, and like any tool it can be used for good or for bad, depending on how it’s programmed.

“A pencil can write a poem or solve a maths formula,” he points out, “but in the hands of John Wick it can be a lethal weapon.

“Still, we don't ban pencils, we make sure they are used responsibly”.


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