An expert warned that if mankind unlocks the key to a secret master algorithm to create self-replicating robots, we may be "asking for trouble."
Professor Pedro Domingos, the author of "The Master Algorithm", told C2C that we are being propelled very rapidly into a brave new world of Artificial Intelligence – whether we like it or not.
"Computers are getting more powerful," he told George. "Everything in the world now is spewing data in every conceivable way and these learning algorithms turn that data into knowledge - into predictions - into decisions - and actions."
"An algorithm is just how we tell a computer what we want it do," he explained. "It's a sequence of instructions not unlike a cooking recipe except it is a lot more difficult and precise. Traditionally, the only people who could program computers were people who knew how to write these algorithms – namely computer scientists."
"What happens with machine learning is that you are actually programming the computer without knowing it because the algorithm just actually learns from data in the same way that people learn from experience."
Currently major high tech companies like Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon as well as their counterparts in China are in a race to develop "the ultimate learning machine," Prof. Domingos said.
"The master algorithm is what we need to do this. The master algorithm is the source of all knowledge. If you have that algorithm than it is able to discover everything there is to be discovered."
"In theory, the master algorithm can discover anything."
With the master algorithm unlocked and then installed, highly advanced learning machines may be able to self-replicate, potentially unleashing a "runaway machine intelligence," he said.
"If we can make a machine that can invent anything – if we have this master-algorithm - then it can invent a machine that does the same thing better. So, a smart machine creates a smarter machine which then creates a smarter machine and then this can runaway exponentially and become very intelligent very quickly," Prof. Domingos elaborated.
"This area of machine learning is called 'evolutionary robotics' where the robots evolve. They assemble themselves and they then make the next generation of robots."
In any form of evolution - be it human or robot - it's ultimately about survival of the fittest.
If we create self-replicating, self-aware robots that are programmed to survive by any means necessary, "then we are really asking for trouble," Prof. Domingos warned.