Linux Founder: Fears AI Could End Human Race Are ‘Bad Sci-Fi’

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Linux founder Linus Torvalds dismisses the fears of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and others, claiming there is nothing to be fearful of

Linux founder Linus Torvalds says he does not share the views that artificial intelligence (AI) represents a threat to the human race, describing such fears as ‘bad’ science fiction.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Professor Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak are among the technology and science figures to express their worries, with Musk donating $10 million to protect us from the impending threat and Wozniak saying machines will eventually treat humans like pets.

But in Q&A with Slashdot users, Torvalds said he just didn’t “see the thing to be fearful of.”

AI fears

robot chase ©patrimonio designs ltd / shutterstock“We’ll get AI, and it will almost certainly be through something very much like recurrent neural networks,” he said in response to one user’s question. “And the thing is, since that kind of AI will need training, it won’t be ‘reliable’ in the traditional computer sense. It’s not the old rule-based prolog days, when people thought they’d *understand* what the actual decisions were in an AI.

“And that all makes it very interesting, of course, but it also makes it hard to productise. Which will very much limit where you’ll actually find those neural networks, and what kinds of network sizes and inputs and outputs they’ll have.

“So I’d expect just more of (and much fancier) rather targeted AI, rather than anything human-like at all. Language recognition, pattern recognition, things like that. I just don’t see the situation where you suddenly have some existential crisis because your dishwasher is starting to discuss Sartre with you.

“The whole ‘Singularity’ kind of event? Yeah, it’s science fiction, and not very good Sci-Fi at that, in my opinion. Unending exponential growth? What drugs are those people on? I mean, really.”

In the Q&A, Torvalds said he didn’t think there was going to be much of a “next big thing” in OS kernel development and also discussed his views on processor technology, functional languages and the Linux gaming market. He also said he did not champion any particular open source project.

The most recent release candidate of Linux, Linux 4.2-rc1, went live earlier this week, adding one million new lines of code.

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