Concerns raised after robot kills worker

by Nicola Middlemiss07 Jul 2015
The tragic death of one factory worker is forcing employers to ask some difficult questions – could artificial intelligence pose a very real risk to human employees and if so, what can we do about it?

The unnamed employee was installing a stationary robot at a Volkswagen plant in Germany when the machine grabbed him and crushed him against a metal plate, inflicting fatal injuries.

VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig confirmed the 22-year-old man had died on Monday at the Baunatal plant, about 100km north of Frankfurt.

The robot is programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them. Hillwig said it would typically operate within a confined area or cage.

The incident has come at a time when tech experts are stepping up efforts to control increasingly complex AI.

When Elon Musk donated US$10 million to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), the organisation announced it would be using US$7 million of that to fund projects aimed at controlling artificial intelligence – one project wants to help keep AI-powered weapons under “meaningful human control.”

The Tesla CEO has previously stated his outright distrust of artificial intelligence and even likened it to “summoning the demon.”

But Musk isn’t the only high-profile leader to publicly express concern – both Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have put their opinions forward too.

Gates told users on news sharing site Reddit that he doesn’t “understand why some people are not concerned,” and world-renowned physicist Hawking even told the BBC that AI could – theoretically – end humanity.

COMMENTS

  • by H.A.L 14/07/2015 10:31:00 AM

    AI could be the most amazing discovery with potential benefits not possibly imaginable OR it could perceive humanity as a threat to achieving its goal, an obstacle to be overcome or eliminated on it path to perfect optimization.
    Humans have a history of not adequately preparing or understanding the long term ramifications of its discoveries and innovations. On more than one occasion starting implementation of an idea without complete consideration, perhaps selfishly driven by profit, ego or a "if I don’t do it someone else will beat me to it" mentality with varying outcomes, equally wonderful and catastrophic.
    In any case, AI is coming, true general AI, and it will likely be the last invention ever made regardless of what happens afterwards as it effortlessly outstrips evolution and moves into a space that can’t be understood by a human mind, likely summarizing millions of years of selective evolution in the blink of an eye.
    It’s curious that many discussions theorize the outcomes of AI but few discuss the possibly more critical question; how we are going to have it aligned with the goals, dreams, desires, fears, etc of humanity? This will guide the potential outcome be it for humanities benefit or not.
    Human beings goals, dreams and the reality of what humanity is for each person can vary wildly. If AI is humanities undoing it might be due to an inability to agree on what is fundamentally at the core of all people, the stuff that unifies and permeates everyone and possibly all known life.

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