Cambridge, Cabs and Copenhagen: My Route to Existential Risk

27 January 2013

In Copenhagen the summer before last, I shared a taxi with a man who thought his chance of dying in an artificial intelligence-related accident was as high as that of heart disease or cancer. No surprise if he’d been the driver, perhaps (never tell a taxi driver that you’re a philosopher!), but this was a man who has spent his career with computers.

Indeed, he’s so talented in that field that he is one of the team who made this century so, well, 21st – who got us talking to one another on video screens, the way we knew we’d be doing in the 21st century, back when I was a boy, half a century ago. For this was Jaan Tallinn, one of the team who gave us Skype. (Since then, taking him to dinner in Trinity College here in Cambridge, I’ve had colleagues queuing up to shake his hand, thanking him for keeping them in touch with distant grandchildren.)

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