Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

AI Faces Its Manhattan Project Moment

By Guy Nolch

Researchers are boycotting a major university that is opening an autonomous weapons lab in collaboration with an arms company.

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Most Australians have lived through an unprecedented era of prosperity and stability. It’s now more than 70 years since the end of the Second World War and almost 90 years since the start of the Great Depression. Since then medical advances have extended our life expectancy well into our eighties, and some futurists even proclaim that we are the last mortal generation before the “singularity” combines biological and artificial intelligence (AI).

While most of us have only witnessed some short-term stockmarket crashes, pandemic threats such as SARS and avian flu, and military interventions and counter­terrorism measures rather than full-scale wars, there are signs that this golden age may soon be disrupted. Antibiotic resistance is rapidly multiplying, automation is reducing the job market to a casualised “gig economy”, and military superpowers are again flexing their muscles.

Military tensions between the US, North Korea, Russia and China, along with trade sanctions and Cold War-era diplomatic expulsions, seem more ominous than in recent decades, not least with bombing of Syria in April, China expanding its military presence into South-East Asia, and North Korea edging closer to achieving a nuclear capability.

But it is South Korea that has captured the ire of the international scientific community. Its top university, the Korea Advanced Institute of...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.