'Terminator center' to open at Cambridge University

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Cambridge University is to open a center for "Terminator studies" where top scientists will study threats posed to humanity by robots.

The Center for the Study of Existential Risk is being co-launched by astronomer royal Lord Rees, one of the world’s leading cosmologists. It will probe the “four greatest threats” to the human species, given as: artificial intelligence, climate change, nuclear war and rogue biotechnology.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s classic "Terminator" films famously showed a world where ultra-intelligent machines fight against humanity in the form of the genocidal Skynet system.

The Cambridge center is intended to bring together academics from various disciplines including philosophy, astronomy, biology, robotics, neuroscience and economics.

Lord Rees, who has warned that humanity could wipe itself out by 2100, is launching the center alongside Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price, and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn.

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“We have machines that have trumped human performance in chess, flying, driving, financial trading and face, speech and handwriting recognition," Professor Price said. “The concern is that by creating artificially intelligent machines we risk yielding control over the planet to intelligences that are simply indifferent to us and to things we consider valuable.”

“There’s a mismatch between public perception of very different risks and their actual seriousness," Rees added. “We fret unduly about carcinogens in food, train crashes and low-level radiation.

“But we are in denial about ‘low-probability high-consequence’ events that should concern us more and which, in our ever more interconnected world, could have global consequences.”