Web Summit Opening Night Highlight: Stephen Hawking’s Keynote Speech

Are governments and industry aware of this, and are they prepared? These are some of the important societal questions that need to be asked in regard to Artificial Intelligence (AI). (Image: Hermann Rohr / Nspirement)

Professor Stephen Hawking joined the 2017 Web Summit’s opening night by delivering a keynote speech on artificial intelligence (AI), wherein he stressed the potential of AI to transform the general human condition, and also touched upon the need for ethics and controllability in the development of AI.

“We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be and you are the pioneers.”

The packed Altice Arena in Lisbon held 15,000 people on the opening night.

Fifteen thousand people packed out Lisbon’s Altice Arena to hear Stephen Hawking.
15,000 people packed out Lisbon’s Altice Arena to hear Professor Hawking’s thoughts and aspirations about AI and its role in the future of our society. (Image: Hermann Rohr / Nspirement)

Stephen Hawking addressed the opening night audience via video. He was invited to speak at the Web Summit by Feedzai, an AI company specializing in fraud prevention.

While there are many benefits that could potentially arise from AI in the future, the author of The Universe in a Nutshell also touched upon the potential risks that could accompany the innovation of AI. Stephen Hawking said:

AI is already permeating every aspect of our lives 

Virtual Personal Assistants like Siri and Alexa are common forms of Artificial Intelligence. ( Image Credit: mcmurryjulie; Pixabay; CC0 1.0
Virtual personal assistants like Siri and Alexa are common forms of artificial intelligence. (Image: mcmurryjulie; Pixabay; CC0 1.0)

Concluding, Paddy Cosgrave, the Web Summit CEO, praised the wheelchair-bound professor Hawking saying that what he said should be taken seriously, as AI is like a double-edged sword, bearing both the potential to bring good to humanity, as well as the possibility to do harm.

AI is no longer a mere fiction of the entertainment media, but an actual thing that is slowly but surely seeping into our everyday lives.

Fifteen thousand people packed out Lisbon’s Altice Arena to hear Stephen Hawking.
Virtual personal assistants, like iPhone’s Siri, are AI that many of us are already using daily without even being aware of it. (Image: Screenshot / iPhone)

Virtual personal assistants, like Siri and Alexa, are now integrated into video games, smart cars, online customer support, news generation, and smart home devices, just to name a few.

Many of us are using AI on a daily base without even realizing it.

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