Imagine a world full of smart robots that can do any job a human can \u2013 there would be mega global unemployment with potentially dire consequences for society. Computer scientist Moshe Vardi, believes this will happen within the next three decades.\r\n\r\nNot only will robots equipped with sophisticated artificial intelligence be able to do most jobs we can, they will probably be better at them. They will not need sleep, if their programming is done properly, they will not get tired or angry and make mistakes like we do.\r\n\r\nRobots do as they are told, they do not go on strike, ask for salaries, sexually harass other employees resulting in expensive lawsuits, have babies and then ask for time off, get involved in office politics and time-wasting rivalry or brinkmanship, get ill and then ask for time off, they don't even need health or unemployment insurance - it is a very long list!\r\nWhat will happen to us when robots take over most jobs currently occupied by humans and the unemployment rate shoots to above 50%? Will we thrive in a life of leisure?\r\n\r\nImagine billions of humans living a life of leisure!\r\nProf. Vardi, Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering at Rice's Department of Computer Science, is today urging computer experts, sociologists and other professionals and policymakers to consider the societal implications of a labour force dominated by robots, and a massive proportion of our physically active and able population without work.\r\n\r\nCan our current societies across the world cope with an unemployment rate greater than 50%? Will people of working age be happy to live a life of leisure? Even if we manage to be happy, would we be physically and mentally healthy?\r\nWhat is a robot?\r\nhttps:\/\/youtu.be\/uGp3IPyOFl4\r\n\r\nSince humans first set foot on this planet, we have been used to going out to gather and hunt, later as farmers to tend to our livestock and crops, and since the industrial revolution to play a useful role within the vast spectrum of the world\u2019s labour force.\r\nWork is in our genes, isn't it?\r\nWe may be genetically programmed to work. How would an intelligent, sophisticated animal \u2013 a human \u2013 exist without work?\r\n\r\nProf. Vardi, who is also Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, said:\r\n\r\n\u201cWe are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cI believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?\u201d\r\nWill a life of leisure be a dream-come-true for most humans?\r\nThis will be the theme of Prof. Vardi\u2019s presentation at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. at 8am on Sunday, 14th February, 2016.\r\nWill ultra-smart robots benefit us?\r\nRegarding artificial intelligence and its pros and cons for humankind, Prof. Vardi said:\r\n\r\n\u201cThe question I want to put forward is, 'Does the technology we are developing ultimately benefit mankind?'\u201d\r\n\r\nHe will provide compelling evidence showing how rapidly the pace of advancement in the field of AI (artificial intelligence) is increasing.\r\n\r\nThe phenomenon has already begun, he explains. AI technologies are today eliminating an ever-increasing number of middle-class jobs, and consequently fueling income inequality.\r\n\r\nProf. Vardi, who is both a member of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering, has served as the editor-in-chief of Communications of the ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery\u2019s flagship publication.\r\n\r\nAutomation has been well received ... so far\r\n\r\nSince the dawn of the industrial revolution, most of us have seen automation as a good thing that has benefitted society and improved out quality of life. Likewise, the majority of humans today believe future advances in automation, which includes increasingly smarter robots, will also be good for us, Prof. Vardi explains.\r\nPerhaps a life of leisure will be a living hell - the ultimate nightmare - for many of us.\r\nRegarding automation, Prof. Vardi says:\r\n\r\n\u201cA typical answer is that if machines will do all our work, we will be free to pursue leisure activities.\u201d\r\n\r\nEven if we manage by some miracle to reorganize society and our economies to enable billions of people to live lives of leisure, Prof. Vardi still wonders whether automation would ultimately be good for us.\r\n\r\nHe made the following comment regarding humans and our need for work:\r\n\r\n\u201cI do not find this a promising future, as I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life appealing. I believe that work is essential to human well-being.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cHumanity is about to face perhaps its greatest challenge ever, which is finding meaning in life after the end of 'In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.' We need to rise to the occasion and meet this challenge [before human labor becomes obsolete].\u201d\r\nSome people, like amputee Leslie Baugh, have no doubt that sophisticated artificial intelligence is and will be a blessing. In this picture, Leslie is operating two prosthetic arms just by thinking about moving them. Imagine what will be available for people like him in fifty years' time, (Image: Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory)\r\n\r\nThe Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence\r\nIn December 2015, the University of Cambridge announced it was opening The Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, which will be tasked with analyzing current and future artificial intelligence and determining whether it is or will be a benefit for humankind - or a nightmare, and if so, what we can do about it.\r\n\r\nThanks to a \u00a310 million donation from the Leverhulme Trust, the new centre will explore the opportunities and challenges that AI will bring to us.\r\n\r\nCambridge scientists say that even though computer science is advancing at lightning speed, so far we have only started scratching at the surface of AI, which will soon have the ability to analyse, learn and update without our help, i.e. evolve on its own.\r\n\r\nThe Centre will bring together IT experts, philosophers, psychologists, anthropologists, social scientists and other specialists to study and discuss the practical, technical, ethical and philosophical questions that AI will raise for all of us in the years to come.\r\n\r\nHuw Price, the Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, who will be the Director of the new centre, said:\r\n\r\n\u201cMachine intelligence will be one of the defining themes of our century, and the challenges of ensuring that we make good use of its opportunities are ones we all face together.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cHumans have barely begun to consider its ramifications \u2013 good or bad. The Centre is a response to the Leverhulme Trust\u2019s call for \u2018bold, disruptive thinking, capable of creating a step-change in our understanding.\u2019\u201d\r\nWhen will robots outsmart us?\r\nWhen will robots outsmart us and leave us behind in the evolutionary ladder? Scientists are not sure \u2013 they say it is impossible to predict when a human-level AI will be created.\r\n\r\nVirtually all of them are certain it is going to happen before the end of this century.\r\n\r\nAs soon as an intelligent AI learns to upgrade itself, its evolution will start speeding up dramatically. In other words, if it upgrades by a certain degree every six months, that degree of advancement will double during each six-month period, or the intervals will halve each time.\r\n\r\nEventually, there will be an AI that has the ability to judge and, like us, have the will to survive.\r\nProf. Stephen Hawking fears what AI may represent for humans one day. Some people find his opinion surprising, given that people with\u00a0motor neurone disease (also called ALS) are likely to have much better mobility one day thanks to AI. (Image: hawking.org.uk)\r\n\r\nStephen Hawking fears AI\u2019s potential\r\nEminent theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author Prof. Stephen Hawking has warned us on several occasions about the potential dangers of AI in the future. It will be able to evolve much faster than we can biologically.\r\n\r\nProf. Hawking wonders whether AI could spell the end of civilization as we know it, and even perhaps the extinction of the human race.\r\n\r\nProf. Hawking once said: \u201cThe development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cWhen it eventually does occur [AI becomes smarter than humans], it\u2019s likely to be either the best or worst thing ever to happen to humanity, so there\u2019s huge value in getting it right.\u201d\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nVideo \u2013 Artificial Intelligence\r\nAI or Artificial Intelligence refers to software that makes robots and other machines 'intelligent.' Specifically, the way they behave and think is similar to that of humans.