Hawking's AI concerns aren't just science fiction

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Richard Heap
December 8, 2014
This content is from our archive. Some formatting or links may be broken.
This content is from our archive. Some formatting or links may be broken.
Hawking's AI concerns aren't just science fiction

Leading physicist Stephen Hawking last week warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of the human race. Scary stuff.

The idea of super-intelligent and self-aware machines may sound the stuff of nightmarish science fiction, but some businesses are already concerned. Earlier this year, tech giant Google paid $400m for a company called DeepMind, which plans to use its knowledge of neuroscience and computing to build learning machines.

Since then, Google has formed an ethics committee on artificial
intelligence to head off the sorts of risks Hawking has raised.

The wind industry should take note because these concerns will start to affect investment decisions in the sector. We aren’t worried that the human race will be destroyed by an army of sentient wind turbines. No, the real worry is about elements that look mundane.

‘Artificial intelligence’ isn’t a new concept for companies in this sector. Turbines are now being equipped with sensors in order to monitor changing wind patterns around them and respond to these changes. This helps investors maximise production from their sites.

There is also plenty of talk about how the electricity grid needs to get ‘smarter’, in order to smooth fluctuations in production from renewable energy sources including wind. The use of storage technology will enable wind farms to store energy so the grid can then access it when it is required, and direct it to those who need it.

And we are also aware that hackers now have the power to target turbines if they want to. Turbines are already getting smart.

There are plenty of ways this could grow in the coming years, not all of them desirable. Manufacturers, for example, could use ‘artificial intelligence’ to do the jobs of research teams in designing and honing turbine concepts. This could rapidly speed up the process of designing new technology, but would likely lead to the loss of huge swathes of jobs carried out by human beings.

Of course, that is hypothetical but it shows we should not dismiss artificial intelligence as something that only happens in Hollywood. Technological change will affect future investment decisions and will require many more firms to set up Google-style ethics boards.

The other reason firms should take note now is that soon it will be a source of public debate. That means governments will eventually look to introduce new laws about the sort of work that firms in all sectors can carry out. Wind must be aware of this possibility now.

But why would regulators be interested in something like wind?

Well, let's do some science fiction of our own. Let's say intelligent computers have been created, and that they control both the means of energy production — the wind turbines — and the grid. In that case, there would be a risk of artificially intelligent machines directing energy towards activities that suited them, and away from wasteful humans. That would be to the detriment of people.

Of course, we are not saying that this is an immediate danger, but it is the sort of scenario that is starting to exercise to minds of tech pioneers, and will soon start to concern governments. The result will be new laws and more protocols for firms to grapple with.

It's much better to start thinking about these things now than be hit by unexpected laws later.

Leading physicist Stephen Hawking last week warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of the human race. Scary stuff.

The idea of super-intelligent and self-aware machines may sound the stuff of nightmarish science fiction, but some businesses are already concerned. Earlier this year, tech giant Google paid $400m for a company called DeepMind, which plans to use its knowledge of neuroscience and computing to build learning machines.

Since then, Google has formed an ethics committee on artificial
intelligence to head off the sorts of risks Hawking has raised.

The wind industry should take note because these concerns will start to affect investment decisions in the sector. We aren’t worried that the human race will be destroyed by an army of sentient wind turbines. No, the real worry is about elements that look mundane.

‘Artificial intelligence’ isn’t a new concept for companies in this sector. Turbines are now being equipped with sensors in order to monitor changing wind patterns around them and respond to these changes. This helps investors maximise production from their sites.

There is also plenty of talk about how the electricity grid needs to get ‘smarter’, in order to smooth fluctuations in production from renewable energy sources including wind. The use of storage technology will enable wind farms to store energy so the grid can then access it when it is required, and direct it to those who need it.

And we are also aware that hackers now have the power to target turbines if they want to. Turbines are already getting smart.

There are plenty of ways this could grow in the coming years, not all of them desirable. Manufacturers, for example, could use ‘artificial intelligence’ to do the jobs of research teams in designing and honing turbine concepts. This could rapidly speed up the process of designing new technology, but would likely lead to the loss of huge swathes of jobs carried out by human beings.

Of course, that is hypothetical but it shows we should not dismiss artificial intelligence as something that only happens in Hollywood. Technological change will affect future investment decisions and will require many more firms to set up Google-style ethics boards.

The other reason firms should take note now is that soon it will be a source of public debate. That means governments will eventually look to introduce new laws about the sort of work that firms in all sectors can carry out. Wind must be aware of this possibility now.

But why would regulators be interested in something like wind?

Well, let's do some science fiction of our own. Let's say intelligent computers have been created, and that they control both the means of energy production — the wind turbines — and the grid. In that case, there would be a risk of artificially intelligent machines directing energy towards activities that suited them, and away from wasteful humans. That would be to the detriment of people.

Of course, we are not saying that this is an immediate danger, but it is the sort of scenario that is starting to exercise to minds of tech pioneers, and will soon start to concern governments. The result will be new laws and more protocols for firms to grapple with.

It's much better to start thinking about these things now than be hit by unexpected laws later.

Leading physicist Stephen Hawking last week warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of the human race. Scary stuff.

The idea of super-intelligent and self-aware machines may sound the stuff of nightmarish science fiction, but some businesses are already concerned. Earlier this year, tech giant Google paid $400m for a company called DeepMind, which plans to use its knowledge of neuroscience and computing to build learning machines.

Since then, Google has formed an ethics committee on artificial
intelligence to head off the sorts of risks Hawking has raised.

The wind industry should take note because these concerns will start to affect investment decisions in the sector. We aren’t worried that the human race will be destroyed by an army of sentient wind turbines. No, the real worry is about elements that look mundane.

‘Artificial intelligence’ isn’t a new concept for companies in this sector. Turbines are now being equipped with sensors in order to monitor changing wind patterns around them and respond to these changes. This helps investors maximise production from their sites.

There is also plenty of talk about how the electricity grid needs to get ‘smarter’, in order to smooth fluctuations in production from renewable energy sources including wind. The use of storage technology will enable wind farms to store energy so the grid can then access it when it is required, and direct it to those who need it.

And we are also aware that hackers now have the power to target turbines if they want to. Turbines are already getting smart.

There are plenty of ways this could grow in the coming years, not all of them desirable. Manufacturers, for example, could use ‘artificial intelligence’ to do the jobs of research teams in designing and honing turbine concepts. This could rapidly speed up the process of designing new technology, but would likely lead to the loss of huge swathes of jobs carried out by human beings.

Of course, that is hypothetical but it shows we should not dismiss artificial intelligence as something that only happens in Hollywood. Technological change will affect future investment decisions and will require many more firms to set up Google-style ethics boards.

The other reason firms should take note now is that soon it will be a source of public debate. That means governments will eventually look to introduce new laws about the sort of work that firms in all sectors can carry out. Wind must be aware of this possibility now.

But why would regulators be interested in something like wind?

Well, let's do some science fiction of our own. Let's say intelligent computers have been created, and that they control both the means of energy production — the wind turbines — and the grid. In that case, there would be a risk of artificially intelligent machines directing energy towards activities that suited them, and away from wasteful humans. That would be to the detriment of people.

Of course, we are not saying that this is an immediate danger, but it is the sort of scenario that is starting to exercise to minds of tech pioneers, and will soon start to concern governments. The result will be new laws and more protocols for firms to grapple with.

It's much better to start thinking about these things now than be hit by unexpected laws later.

Leading physicist Stephen Hawking last week warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of the human race. Scary stuff.

The idea of super-intelligent and self-aware machines may sound the stuff of nightmarish science fiction, but some businesses are already concerned. Earlier this year, tech giant Google paid $400m for a company called DeepMind, which plans to use its knowledge of neuroscience and computing to build learning machines.

Since then, Google has formed an ethics committee on artificial
intelligence to head off the sorts of risks Hawking has raised.

The wind industry should take note because these concerns will start to affect investment decisions in the sector. We aren’t worried that the human race will be destroyed by an army of sentient wind turbines. No, the real worry is about elements that look mundane.

‘Artificial intelligence’ isn’t a new concept for companies in this sector. Turbines are now being equipped with sensors in order to monitor changing wind patterns around them and respond to these changes. This helps investors maximise production from their sites.

There is also plenty of talk about how the electricity grid needs to get ‘smarter’, in order to smooth fluctuations in production from renewable energy sources including wind. The use of storage technology will enable wind farms to store energy so the grid can then access it when it is required, and direct it to those who need it.

And we are also aware that hackers now have the power to target turbines if they want to. Turbines are already getting smart.

There are plenty of ways this could grow in the coming years, not all of them desirable. Manufacturers, for example, could use ‘artificial intelligence’ to do the jobs of research teams in designing and honing turbine concepts. This could rapidly speed up the process of designing new technology, but would likely lead to the loss of huge swathes of jobs carried out by human beings.

Of course, that is hypothetical but it shows we should not dismiss artificial intelligence as something that only happens in Hollywood. Technological change will affect future investment decisions and will require many more firms to set up Google-style ethics boards.

The other reason firms should take note now is that soon it will be a source of public debate. That means governments will eventually look to introduce new laws about the sort of work that firms in all sectors can carry out. Wind must be aware of this possibility now.

But why would regulators be interested in something like wind?

Well, let's do some science fiction of our own. Let's say intelligent computers have been created, and that they control both the means of energy production — the wind turbines — and the grid. In that case, there would be a risk of artificially intelligent machines directing energy towards activities that suited them, and away from wasteful humans. That would be to the detriment of people.

Of course, we are not saying that this is an immediate danger, but it is the sort of scenario that is starting to exercise to minds of tech pioneers, and will soon start to concern governments. The result will be new laws and more protocols for firms to grapple with.

It's much better to start thinking about these things now than be hit by unexpected laws later.

Leading physicist Stephen Hawking last week warned that artificial intelligence could lead to the end of the human race. Scary stuff.

The idea of super-intelligent and self-aware machines may sound the stuff of nightmarish science fiction, but some businesses are already concerned. Earlier this year, tech giant Google paid $400m for a company called DeepMind, which plans to use its knowledge of neuroscience and computing to build learning machines.

Since then, Google has formed an ethics committee on artificial
intelligence to head off the sorts of risks Hawking has raised.

The wind industry should take note because these concerns will start to affect investment decisions in the sector. We aren’t worried that the human race will be destroyed by an army of sentient wind turbines. No, the real worry is about elements that look mundane.

‘Artificial intelligence’ isn’t a new concept for companies in this sector. Turbines are now being equipped with sensors in order to monitor changing wind patterns around them and respond to these changes. This helps investors maximise production from their sites.

There is also plenty of talk about how the electricity grid needs to get ‘smarter’, in order to smooth fluctuations in production from renewable energy sources including wind. The use of storage technology will enable wind farms to store energy so the grid can then access it when it is required, and direct it to those who need it.

And we are also aware that hackers now have the power to target turbines if they want to. Turbines are already getting smart.

There are plenty of ways this could grow in the coming years, not all of them desirable. Manufacturers, for example, could use ‘artificial intelligence’ to do the jobs of research teams in designing and honing turbine concepts. This could rapidly speed up the process of designing new technology, but would likely lead to the loss of huge swathes of jobs carried out by human beings.

Of course, that is hypothetical but it shows we should not dismiss artificial intelligence as something that only happens in Hollywood. Technological change will affect future investment decisions and will require many more firms to set up Google-style ethics boards.

The other reason firms should take note now is that soon it will be a source of public debate. That means governments will eventually look to introduce new laws about the sort of work that firms in all sectors can carry out. Wind must be aware of this possibility now.

But why would regulators be interested in something like wind?

Well, let's do some science fiction of our own. Let's say intelligent computers have been created, and that they control both the means of energy production — the wind turbines — and the grid. In that case, there would be a risk of artificially intelligent machines directing energy towards activities that suited them, and away from wasteful humans. That would be to the detriment of people.

Of course, we are not saying that this is an immediate danger, but it is the sort of scenario that is starting to exercise to minds of tech pioneers, and will soon start to concern governments. The result will be new laws and more protocols for firms to grapple with.

It's much better to start thinking about these things now than be hit by unexpected laws later.

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Full archive access is available to members only

Not a member yet?

Become a member of the 6,500-strong A Word About Wind community today, and gain access to our premium content, exclusive lead generation and investment opportunities.