BCN banner

The Threat of Human Extinction
Posed By Replicating Robots is Real
Says Leading Computer Scientist

Graphic depiction of evolution of man from prehistoric times to the Information Age
Where is Humanity Headed?

April, 2000 - Wired Magazine presented an article by Bill Joy, cofounder and Chief Scientist at Sun Microsystems, that presented evidence that future intelligent robotic systems could very well make the human species extinct. Joy stated in his article "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" that, "I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals."

Citing evidence dating back 10,000,000 years ago uncovered by scientists relating to how superior living organisms easily displace lesser biologically equipped species, Joy uses this as part of his thesis envisioning how "robotic industries would compete vigorously among themselves for matter, energy and space and drive humans off the planet in the process."

Joy explains how naive we have become in this new age of scientific breakthroughs not realizing there may be consequences to the enormous power being unleashed, "these 21st Century technologies -- genetics, nanotechnology and robotics, are so powerful that they can spawn whole new classes of accidents and abuses. Most dangerously, and for the first time, these accidents and abuses are widely within the reach of individuals or small groups. They will not require large facilities or rare raw materials -- knowledge alone will enable the use of them."

Joy also stated it was only up until last year he believed there would be no new advancements to take over physical limitations technology would reach by the year 2010. Instead, due to the radical progress of molecular electronics and related nanoscale technologies, all that has changed. Joy predicts that by 2030, we will be likely to build machines, in quantity, a million times as powerful as the personal computers of today. When this enormous computing power is combined with the new knowledge of genetics and advances of physical sciences, Joy claims a great danger to humanity will be possible due to our becoming too dependent on them leading to our being overcome by intelligent robots who will make decisions for us.

Joy is deeply concerned about a possible Frankenstein monster awakening he has contributed to making in stating, "now, with the prospect of human-level computing power in about 30 years, a new idea suggests itself: that I may be working to create tools which will enable the construction of the technology that may replace our species. How do I feel about this? Very uncomfortable."

Joy believes the only realistic alternative to where we are presently headed, is to limit the development of the technologies that are too dangerous, by limiting our pursuit of certain kinds of knowledge.


Wired Magazine, April, 2000