With exams and coursework deadlines looming, it can become all too easy to procrastinate and spend your time on your laptop, iPad or games console. We often find ourselves blaming technology for being a distraction, but what if the problems technology pose are more sinister?

From Terminator to I-Robot, robot uprisings have been well played out in films and in the media, but what if there was a chance of that being our future? Cambridge University plan to open the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. This plans to study the dangers that the developments of human technology may pose to us. This includes the dangers of biotechnology, artificial life, nanotechnology and climate change.

The centre is being co-created by leading cosmologist Lord Rees, who states that humanity is at risk of wiping itself out by 2100. The centre is also being founded by Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price and Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn.

The formation of the new centre follows a recent article by Price and Tallinn about how artificial intelligence should be treated suspiciously. The article states that “the greatest concerns stem from the possibility that computers might take over domains that are critical to controlling the speed and direction of technological progress itself”, thus robot technology could become smarter than humans and prevent our own advancement, or even be a threat to our survival.

The University states that it intends to bring together leading academics from fields ranging from astronomy and philosophy to robotics and economics, in a hope that it can find a way to prevent the extinction of our species by our advancing technology.

Is it a valid concern that advances in technology could replace humans, or is this just an extreme view inspired by science fiction? The centre has already been dubbed the ‘Terminator Centre’; could we really be in danger at the hands of our own creations?

Jessica Hewitt-Dean

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