The great Stephen Hawking warned this week that artificial intelligence could be “the worst thing ever to happen to humanity,” further emphasizing his fear that it could soon fully replace humans and render mankind useless.

Speaking at a technology conference in Lisbon, Hawking told the crowd that what A.I. can learn is infinite, and so could easily catch up with the limits of the human brain and then exceed it. While these advances could be incredibly valuable and beneficial to society, there’s a thin line between the technology helping and hindering us, Hawking said.

“Success in creating effective A.I. could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization, or the worst. We just don’t know,” he said. “We cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by A.I., or ignored by it and sidelined or conceivably destroyed by it.”

This is not the first time Hawking has expressed his concerns about A.I. replacing humans. In an interview with Wired last week, Hawking said A.I. could potentially be “a new form of life that outperforms humans” with capabilities to improve on and “copy itself.” Hawking also isn’t alone in sounding the alarm on artificial intelligence running amok. Tech giant Elon Musk has been outspoken in encouraging oversight on A.I. to ensure it does not put humanity at risk.

In Lisbon, Hawking also advocated that putting restraints on A.I. development would solve the issue, and ensure we’re making new technology work for us and not the other way around. If not, Hawking says, A.I.’s rise could cause mass destruction.

“It brings dangers like powerful autonomous weapons or new ways for the few to oppress the many. It could bring great disruption to our economy,” Hawking said, “Unless we learn how to prepare for and avoid the potential risks.”

Watch Hawking’s comments at the Lisbon summit in full below.


If you liked this article, check out this video of Stephen Hawking’s chilling prediction for the future of humanity.