Could advances in artificial intelligence eventually lead to the downfall of mankind?
Famed physicist Stephen Hawking laid out this extreme concern over the future of A.I. and the human race in a somewhat terrifying op-ed for The Independent on Sunday.
"Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history." Hawking writes. "Unfortunately, it might also be the last."
Hawking, who is best-known for his blockbuster best-seller "A Brief History of Time," wonders if we're innovating faster than we're considering the possible repercussions
Hawking lays out the incredible technological advancements that are currently taking place in A.I., from self-driving cars to digital personal assistants like Google Now. He believes we're on the cusp of the kinds of artificial intelligence that were previously exclusive to science fiction films.
He's not wrong. A.I. start-ups are fast emerging in the tech sphere and quickly garnering the financial support necessary to innovate.
Google recently paid $650 million for DeepMind Technologies, an A.I. company. Late last year, Google picked up Robotics maker Boston Dynamics for an undisclosed sum.
"The amount of money that Google and other commercial companies will pour into robotics and artificial intelligence could at last take it truly into the commercial world where we actually do have smart robots roaming our streets." Robotics Professor Noel Sharkey told The Guardian.
What's the problem with all that innovation? Hawking lays out concerns that seem straight out of a sci-fi horror film -- essentially worrying that eventually the machines will outsmart us all.
"Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all."
Regardless of whether artificial Intelligence outpaces human intelligence as Hawking fears, we're already seeing humans replaced by machines.
According to a research report from Oxford University's Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, 45 percent of Americans could lose their jobs to computers in the next two decades.
Hawking's suggestion? Thinking before we create. Hawking advocates for more research into where robotics and artificial intelligence could lead. And whether you're a theoretical physicist or an entrepreneur, Hawking believes that when it comes to artificial intelligence, "All of us should ask ourselves what we can do now to improve the chances of reaping the benefits and avoiding the risks."