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Protesters Stage Anti-Robot Rally at SXSW

Jon Swartz reports: The chant reverberated through the air near the entrance to the SXSW tech and entertainment festival here.

"I say robot, you say no-bot!"

About two dozen protesters, led by a computer engineer, echoed that sentiment in their movement against artificial intelligence.

"Machines have already taken over. If you drive a car, much of what it does is technology-driven."

-- Ben Medlock, co-founder of mobile-communications company SwiftKey

"This is is about morality in computing," said Adam Mason, 23, who organized the protest. Signs at the scene reflected the mood. "Stop the Robots." "Humans are the future." The mini-rally drew a crowd of gawkers, drawn by the sight of a rare protest here. 635620541765495483-XXX-jmg-23017 The dangers of more developed artificial intelligence, which is still in its early stages, has created some debate in the scientific community. Tesla founder Elon Musk donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute because of his fears. Stephen Hawking and others have added to the proverbial wave of AI paranoia with dire predictions of its risk to humanity.

"I am amazed at the movement. I has changed life in ways as dramatic as the Industrial Revolution."

-- Stephen Wolfram, a British computer scientist, entrepreneur and former physicist known for his contributions to theoretical physics

The topic is an undercurrent in Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a documentary about the fabled Apple co-founder. The paradoxical dynamic between people and tech products is a "double-edged sword," said its Academy Award-winning director, Alex Gibney. "There are so many benefits — and yet we can descend into our smartphone." As non-plussed witnesses wandered by, another chant went up. "A-I, say goodbye." Several of the students were from the University of Texas, which is known for a strong engineering program. But they are deeply concerned about the implications of a society where technology runs too deep.

“Planes can fly themselves, but the person who is ultimately responsible for landing a plane is a human,” Mason said.

The anti-bot protest has some of the brightest minds in AI puzzled….(read more)

USAToday

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