Stephen Hawking at the 2017 Web Summit opening

Professor Stephen Hawking gave a speech via video recorder message at the Web Summit, the world’s biggest technology event that took place from the 6th to 9th of November in Lisbon.

Hawking spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI), expressing his concern about ethics and technology control that develops autonomous machines, adding that “we are on the threshold of a new world” and stating that “our artificial intelligence systems must do what we want them to do, for the benefit of mankind.”

Introduced by Nuno Sebastião, CEO of Feedzai, a company that uses AI in the prevention of computer fraud, Stephen Hawking discussed that it is unpredictable for humans to reach out to new technology tools. Hawking added that “Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution we can undo some of the damage caused to the natural world, such as industrialization”.

However, the scientist explained that technological evolution also poses risks. “We need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practices, and prepare their consequences in advance.”

“We all have a role to play in ensuring that we, and the next generation, can fulfill our potential and create a better world for the whole human race,” said Hawking, challenging the audience to do so. “You have the potential to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, or expected, and to think hard. We are at the threshold of a new and extraordinary world, it is an exciting, if precarious place and you are pioneers.”

Nuno Sebastião thanked Stephen Hawking saying “we are honored that Professor Hawking has accepted the invitation to speak at the Web Summit, joining our team in promoting the development of ethical and controllable AI” and that is because “Feedzai is supporting an AI code of ethics, and committed to building systems that are fair, verifiable, beneficial to society and do not harm humanity.”

Paddy Cosgrave, CEO of the Web Summit, stated that “Professor Hawking is one of the great minds of our generation and, when he speaks, we should all listen.”

Paddy concluded ”Artificial intelligence may be the best, or the worst, that has been happening to our society since the industrial revolution. The regulation and agreed ethical practices are essential to ensure that we protect the everyone’s rights in society because that is not the future, that is happening now, AI is already there, invading every aspect of our lives”.


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