In the movie Transcendence, Johnny Depp plays Dr Will Caster, a researcher in artificial intelligence at Berkeley trying to build a sentient computer.
Stuart Russell is Will Caster’s real life equivalent. He works on artificial intelligence at the University of California at Berkeley, and is co-author of the definitive textbook on AI. He has also been very vocal about the risks of research in AI succeeding.
Earlier this year, Google’s DeepMind taught a computer program to play a wide variety of Atari video games at a superhuman level in a matter of hours. The program was given no background knowledge. It learnt every game from scratch.
Stuart observed that “If your newborn baby did that you would think it was possessed”.
Should we be impressed or distressed by such progress?