The Vulnerability of Man

CSER’s Jaan Tallinn, Professor Sir John Beddington (Senior Advisor, Oxford Martin School & the UK Government’s former Chief Scientific Adviser) and Sir Crispin Tickell (former diplomat and advisor to successive UK Prime Ministers, who is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on climate change and environmental issues) speak to Vikas Shah at Thought Economics  on existential risk and the vulnerability of our species.

Researchers Urge UN to Ban Autonomous Weapons

Over 1000 researchers working in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics have signed an open letter to the United Nations urging that the development and use of autonomous weapons be banned.

Presented at the International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Buenos Aires, the letter includes signatures from CSER’s co-founders Jaan Tallinn and Huw Price as well as CSER advisors Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Stuart Russell.

It states that whilst “AI has great potential to benefit humanity in many ways” that “Starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea, and should be prevented by a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control”.

The complete open letter and list of signatories can be read here.

Climate Change: A Risk Assessment

CSER’s Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta and Lord Martin Rees have both made expert contributions to a recently released risk assessment report on climate change.

Commissioned by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and edited and produced by the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP) at the University of Cambridge the report has been compiled as an independent contribution to the climate change debate.  It “argues that the risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security, financial stability, or public health. That means we should concentrate especially on understanding what is the worst that could happen, and how likely that might be”.

Read the full report here.

£1 million grant for research into long-term impacts of artificial intelligence

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity Institute, part of the Oxford Martin School, Oxford will together receive a £1m grant for policy and technical research into the development of machine intelligence.

The Technical Abstract submitted reads “The center will focus explicitly on the long-term impacts of AI, the strategic implications of powerful AI systems as they come to exceed human capabilities in most domains of interest, and the policy responses that could best be used to mitigate the potential risks of this technology.”

Funded by the Open Philanthropy Project and Elon Musk, the grant is from the Future of Life Institute in Boston, USA.

Margaret Boden public lecture: June 19th

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk is delighted to host Professor Margaret Boden (Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the Department of Informatics, University of Sussex) for a public lecture on Friday 19th June 2015.

The event is free and open to everyone, but due to expected demand, booking will be necessary. Book here.

Venue: GR06/07 Faculty of English, 9 West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9DP

The event will be followed by a wine reception.

Human-level (“general”) AI is more difficult to achieve than most people think. One key obstacle is relevance, a conceptual version of the frame problem. Another is lack of the semantic web. Yet another is the difficulty of computer vision. So artificial general intelligence (AGI) isn’t on the horizon. Possibly, it may never be achieved. No AGI means no Singularity. Even so, there’s already plenty to worry about—and future AI advances will add more. Areas of concern include unemployment, computer companions, and autonomous robots (some, military). Worries about the (illusory) Singularity have had the good effect of waking up the AI community (and others) to these dangers. At last, they are being taken seriously.

Professor Margaret Boden is a world-leading academic in the study of intelligence, both artificial and otherwise. She is is Research Professor of Cognitive Science at the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex, where her work embraces the fields of artificial intelligence, psychology, philosophy, cognitive and computer science. She was the founding-Dean of Sussex University’s School of Cognitive and Computing Sciences, a pioneering centre for research into intelligence and the mechanisms underlying it — in humans, other animals, or machines. The School’s teaching and research involves an unusual combination of the humanities, science, and technology.

Professor Boden has also been an important participant in the recent international discussions over the long-term impacts of AI. She was a member of the AAAI’s 08/09 Presidential Panel on long-term AI futures (, and also took part in the recent Puerto Rico conference on the Future of AI, co-organised by CSER (; she is therefore uniquely well-placed to discuss near- and long-term prospects in AI.

Stuart Russell Lecture Success

Thank you to all who attended the lecture given by Professor Stuart Russell at the Winstanley Lecture Theatre on Friday afternoon.

The event was a great success with a full to capacity room and a clear and thought provoking presentation by Professor Russell.  The weather was also kind to CSER, and combined with the beautiful setting ‘Under the Wren’ at Trinity College, connections were made and many a lively discussion took place during the post-lecture reception.

We will shortly post a video of the complete talk on this website, but in the meantime you can read Callum Chace’s excellent review of the event at his blog


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