Techno-Risk

Uncontrolled new technologies like artificial intelligence, killer robotics, biotechnology and universal surveillance also harbour unanticipated threats, as people like Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bill Gates have warned.

The safe control of these ultra-powerful new technologies demands oversight and control by civil society – little of which is yet in place.  Society must demand that control, or risk becoming the victim of malicious exploitation of disruptive technologies. The tools to control them do not yet exist. As with fossil fuels and the modern food supply, we are infatuated with the promise of new technologies, rather than cautious about the dangers they bring.

A development to be feared is the universal surveillance of every individual in the whole of society, 24-7 and every day of their life. This has not yet arrived, but within a decade or so quantum computers will deliver the memory and search power to do it. At this point every individual person could be spied upon life-long. Warning voices will be suppressed. Humanity may lose its collective ability to foresee danger and avoid it.

Another is the use of robot killers, including nuclear drones, with the capacity to decide whether or not to kill large numbers of people automatically. Besides the risk of machine error, this development translates conflict to a new sphere, where the killing of humans is automated. Such technologies demand strict control by civilian, not military, powers - yet these are lacking.

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