Science

‘Long way to go' before robots replicate human thought, says expert

A breakthrough in artificial general intelligence (AGI) could lead to developments in tackling climate change or the discovery of new drugs.

It will be many years before robots have the intelligence to replicate human thinking, according to a Google executive.

Sims Witherspoon said if technology advanced to the stage where artificial general intelligence (AGI) worked then it could lead to developments in tackling climate change or the discovery of new drugs.

Ms Witherspoon, who works for DeepMind, Google’s London-based artificial intelligence arm, said there is a “long way to go” before robots can think like humans without the need to be programmed.

“When people talk about artificial intelligence and AGI, what they mean is developing a system that can solve any problem without needing to be pre-programmed in any way,” she said.

“At DeepMind we do think this kind of artificial intelligence could be one of humanity’s most useful inventions.

“We believe we could advance scientific discovery, help people solve thousands of problems and help generate lots of positive impact in the world.

“Everything from climate change to drug discovery. There is a lot of debate about whether this will happen and it’s impossible to give a specific time frame.”

Ms Witherspoon, who was speaking at an event at the digital Cheltenham Science Festival, added: “What we do know is that there is such a long way to go and many research challenges to tackle before we get anywhere close to anything approaching basic human intelligence.

“Hopefully one day we will get there.”

Google acquired DeepMind in 2014 for £400 million.

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