Stephen Hawking: Most of our history is the history of stupidity

Technically Incorrect: Speaking in the UK, the physicist said that AI would either be the best or worst thing ever for humanity.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


He wants to be optimistic. He really does.

BBC/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Stephen Hawking is looking up.

The man who's offered portentous views of our future has begun, it seems, to see a little light.

It could be a laser headed to blow us all up, of course. But for now, let's pretend it isn't.

On Wednesday, the celebrated physicist was speaking at Cambridge University's new Leverhulme Center for the Future of Intelligence.

As the Guardian reports, this is a place where vast brains will try to solve many of society's searing questions about the effects of artificial intelligence on real life.

Hawking said that he was cheered by the notion that someone was going to study the future of intelligence.

He contrasted this by saying: "We spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let's face it, is mostly the history of stupidity."

It's an edifying truth.

As we look to the past, the tales keep coming: "And you'll never guess what asinine thing the rulers did next."

Despite all this looking back, we still make the same mistakes over and over again.

Hawking, then, seems to be lifted by the idea that in creating intelligence, we are stepping into an exciting and potentially positive unknown.

"Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one -- industrialization," he said. "And surely we will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty."

I'm not so sure that technology doesn't bring its own deleterious effects to the environment. Where will we bury all those old Windows computers?

Hawking, indeed, can't quite bring himself to emit complete optimism.

Instead, he said that artificial intelligence will be "either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity."

I suspect some might be betting on the latter.

But they're merely historians.

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