Are you afraid of robots? 你害怕機器人嗎?

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Vocabulary: machines 詞匯: 機器

Image caption Robots: Not evil, just too efficient?

Robots make me nervous - especially the ones which seem to think for themselves. I was embarrassed to admit this till I heard that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, felt the same way.

Gates said in an interview with the social networking and news website Reddit: "I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern."

Well, maybe I don』t have to worry about my laptop and kitchen appliances yet. After I use them I can always pull the plug. But in the future, machines might find a way to prevent us from switching them off. There's a scary thought!

Professor Stephen Hawking warned a few months ago about the possibility that artificial intelligence could evolve and end up beyond human control. He suggested that machines could "spell the end of the human race".

Maybe the problem with computers too clever for us is not that they are evil or rebellious like some we've seen in sci-fi movies. What could put us in danger is that they might be too efficient. That's what philosopher Nick Bostrom from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University believes. He says that machines are indifferent to humans and in pursuit of their own goals, the destruction of people might be just collateral damage.

Bostrom gives us an example: A machine which might have as its only goal to produce as many paperclips as possible might look at human bodies as extra material for paperclips and go after you. Because it is, well, a machine, it would not take pity on you.

It's a good thing that American writer Isaac Asimov thought about how far robots can go and left us his three rules of robotics. They state that a robot may not hurt a human being or allow the human being to come to harm.

I'm glad my machines at home are "dumb". All my vacuum cleaner wants to take over is the carpet in my living room. Let's hope they don't create an appliance which wants to take over the world!

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