Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has joined a growing pool of tech and science experts who have warned about the ever advancing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential dangers to humanity.

Hawking, who is considered to be the most famous genius of the modern age, now says that AI could be the worst thing for human civilisation if we don't find a way to control its development. Speaking at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Hawking said that it's possible for computers to "emulate human intelligence, and exceed it," at least in theory.

Professor Stephen Hawking
Professor Stephen Hawking says Artificial Intelligence could spell end of human race.Reuters

Hawking, who is known for his contributions to the fields of cosmology, general relativity and quantum gravity, talked about how AI could help fight damages done to the natural world, or even eradicate poverty and disease. However, he cautioned that such a future was uncertain as AI continued to advance.

"Success in creating effective AI could be the biggest event in the history of our civilisation. Or the worst. We just don't know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it," Hawking reportedly said.

"Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilisation. 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, adding that creators of AI need to "employ best practice and effective management" before it's too late.

Highlighting some legislative work being carried out in Europe to introduce new rules around AI and robotics, Hawking said that such developments are needed to create AI for the wellbeing of the world.

"We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance," Hawking added.

Artificial Intelligence
Advancement of AI needs to be controlled for humans to thrive, according to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking.Creative Commons

The prominent British physicist is not alone in voicing concerns over the dangers of AI. Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently said that AI could trigger World War 3 and is a far greater threat than North Korea. He even proposed that human brains should merge with machines to remain relevant in an AI-dominated world.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, has argued against the dangers of AI. He even compared the fears of AI to the early fears about airplanes in the November issue of Wired Magazine.

"If we slow down progress in deference to unfounded concerns, we stand in the way of real gains... We didn't rush to put rules in place about how airplanes should work before we figured out how they'd fly in the first place," Zuckerberg wrote.