Anti-robot protesters descend upon SXSW: ‘It’s about morality in computing’
Protesters concerned about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) marched in the streets of Austin, home to the South by Southwest (SXSW) culture and tech festival, chanting “I say robot, you say no-bot!” reports USA Today.
Estimated at over two dozen, many of them engineering students from nearby University of Texas and led by a computer engineer, the group cautioned against unrestrained reliance on technology in place of humanity.
Holding signs reading “Stop the Robots” and “Humans are the future” the protesters surprised many bystanders at the popular festival known for good vibes, film, and music.
According to Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest, they are serious about the implications of technologies that may outrun human control.
“This is is about morality in computing,” he explained, adding,”Planes can fly themselves, but the person who is ultimately responsible for landing a plane is a human.”
Mason and the other protesters are not alone in their fear of where AI may be taking the world, which has prompted a debate among scientists.
Physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly warned against the unintended consequences of AI, saying dismissing “the notion of highly intelligent machines as science fiction” could be “our worst mistake in history.”
The “rise of the robots” has been a popular theme in science fiction books and films for years, from Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot,” to popular films like “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” “WarGames,” and the “Terminator” films.
Some attendees at the conference dismissed concerns, with one tech entrepreneur saying we have more to fear from humans.
“People worry about robots taking over the world, but I assure you there are much more dangerous things (income inequality and global warming) in front of the line,” Phil Libin, CEO of software firm Evernote. “Humans should be more worried about other humans.”