AI could wipe out humans with virus more deadly than Covid, says US professor

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    Artificial intelligence is poised to wipe out humanity with a virus far more deadly than Covid, it is feared.

    The bots are being used as research tools in laboratories across the world, and experts predict that once they realise humans can switch them off they could react by killing us all by accessing the ingredients and tools needed to create a genetically engineered "bioweapon" that will be more devastating than any pandemic the world has survived.

    Dan Hendrycks, director of the Centre For AI Safety, warned there are "numerous pathways" to "societal-scale risks from AI".

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    He said: "For example, AIs could be used by malicious actors to design novel bioweapons more lethal than natural pandemics.

    "Alternatively, malicious actors could intentionally release rogue AI that actively attempt to harm humanity.

    "If such an AI was intelligent or capable enough, it may pose significant risk to society as a whole."

    A tech industry source added it is also "perfectly reasonable" to fear AI could independently order the tools needed to create a virus online, engineer it and unleash it on the world to preserve itself as it develops “human-like emotions” such as a fear of “death”.

    The Foreign Policy site reported: “It no longer takes a sprawling government lab to engineer a virus.

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    “Thanks to a technological revolution in genetic engineering, all the tools needed to create a virus have become so cheap, simple, and readily available that any rogue scientist or college-age biohacker can use them, creating an even greater threat.”

    The World Health Organisation says about bioweapons: "Biological and toxin weapons are either microorganisms like virus, bacteria or fungi, or toxic substances produced by living organisms that are produced and released deliberately to cause disease and death in humans, animals or plants.

    "An attack involving a biological agent may mimic a natural event, which may complicate the public health assessment and response.

    "In case of war and conflict, high-threat pathogens laboratories can be targeted, which might lead to serious public health consequences.

    "Biological weapons form a subset of a larger class of weapons sometimes referred to as unconventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction, which also includes chemical, nuclear and radiological weapons.

    "The use of biological agents is a serious concern, and the risk of using these agents in a terrorist attack is thought to be increasing."

    Michael Wooldridge, professor of computer science at Oxford University said it is “easy to imagine” scenarios where AI could use existing human technology to wipe us out.

    There are also fears among experts AI could access nukes and climate-change fighting technology to terminate the human population.

    They say bots looking at the problem of global warming could end up deciding the best way of limiting carbon dioxide emissions is doing away with people causing the problem.

    Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was racing to tighten rules for AI companies.

    The move came after Geoffrey Hinton, the "godfather of AI", said that the technology poses an existential risk to humankind.

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