The future of intelligence

The University of Cambridge is launching a new research centre, thanks to a £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, to explore the opportunities and challenges to humanity from the development of artificial intelligence.  Human-level intelligence is familiar in biological “hardware” – it happens inside our skulls. Technology and science are now converging on a possible future where similar intelligence can be created in computers.

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While it is hard to predict when this will happen, some researchers suggest that human-level AI will be created within this century. Freed of biological constraints, such machines might become much more intelligent than humans.  Now, thanks to an unprecedented £10 million grant from the Leverhulme Trust, the University of Cambridge is to establish a new interdisciplinary research centre, the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, to explore the opportunities and challenges of this potentially epoch-making technological development, both short and long term.

The Centre brings together computer scientists, philosophers, social scientists and others to examine the technical, practical and philosophical questions artificial intelligence raises for humanity in the coming century. Huw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge and Director of the Centre, said: “Machine intelligence will be one of the defining themes of our century, and the challenges of ensuring that we make good use of its opportunities are ones we all face together. At present, however, we have barely begun to consider its ramifications, good or bad”.

Zoubin Ghahramani, Deputy Director, Professor of Information Engineering and a Fellow of St John’s College, Cambridge, said:

“The field of machine learning continues to advance at a tremendous pace, and machines can now achieve near-human abilities at many cognitive tasks—from recognising images to translating between languages and driving cars. We need to understand where this is all leading, and ensure that research in machine intelligence continues to benefit humanity. The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence will bring together researchers from a number of disciplines, from philosophers to social scientists, cognitive scientists and computer scientists, to help guide the future of this technology and  study its implications.”

The Centre aims to lead the global conversation about the opportunities and challenges to humanity that lie ahead in the future of AI. Professor Price said: “With far-sighted alumni such as Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, and Margaret Boden, Cambridge has an enviable record of leadership in this field, and I am delighted that it will be home to the new Leverhulme Centre.”

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