Robot Revolution: 40% Fear Wipeout of Humanity By Machines
Robot Revolution: 40% Fear Wipeout By Machines
Robots will be "as important as the rise of homo sapiens", but can humans share the planet with super-intelligent machines?
By Tom Cheshire, Technology Correspondent
Almost half of Britons fear that robots could one day wipe out humanity, according to an exclusive Sky News survey.
And more than six out of 10 people in the UK think the Government should protect jobs from being taken by robots, our survey suggests.
The results reveal the anxieties felt by ordinary people about the coming robot revolution.
The technology is advancing fast, while the debate over how it will affect all our lives has been loud and inconclusive.
Many have predicted unemployment due to increased automation. Others argue that new categories of jobs will be created.
Prominent figures including Professor Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have also warned about the threat that "super-intelligent" computers could pose to humanity.
Others, such as Google's director of engineering, Ray Kurzweil, believe that this so-called singularity could lead to undreamt-of benefits for society.
Professor Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, told Sky News that it would be "tragic" if super-intelligence were not developed.
"It is the keyhole we need to travel through in order to realise our ultimate potential," he said.
But Prof Bostrom also urged caution.
He said: "If we one day develop machines that are superior to us in terms of general intelligence, then this machine super-intelligence might be in a very strong position to shape the future according to its preferences.
"And hopefully those preferences will be aligned with ours and it will be a great win.
"It will be something as important as the rise of homo sapiens.
"If and when this happens, it is so important that it is worth trying to start to work on the problem even decades in advance."
Andrew McAfee, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Sky News that the robot revolution "is happening right now".
"It's making us a great deal better off, a great deal wealthier," he said.
"The challenge is that there is no law saying that as that pie grows, it's going to be divided up in a fair way. We're seeing some of that with the growth of inequality.
"We need to make smart choices with policy, with education and a lot of areas to make sure we continue to divide up this growing pie in a way that makes sense for people.
"These large technology transitions always require smart societal and smart policy changes, they don't just happen on their own and magically make everything okay."
:: Sky Data interviewed a nationally representative sample of 1,711 Sky customers online 21-24 August 2015. Data weighted to the profile of the population.