SCL Event Report: Superintelligence – Godsend or Doomsday Device?

March 24, 2015

2 March saw the launch of the newly formed SCL Technology Law Futures Group with an address from Nick Bostrom, Director of the Future of Humanities Institute and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Organised by the Group’s Chair, James Taylor of Fujitsu Services Limited, and me, the topic was ‘Superintelligence’ – broadly speaking, the creation by humanity of an artificial self-enhancing consciousness more intelligent than humans themselves, described by Nick as ‘the last invention humanity will ever have to make’. In a wide-ranging and visionary speech to around 100 SCL attendees, Nick explored the potential existential impact (both positive and negative) which the development of superintelligence might have on humanity and shared his current thinking on the risks inherent in its development, the possible forms such a creation might take and the pathways to and time-frame for its arrival. To describe his address, generously hosted and sponsored by Fujitsu Services Limited, as thought-provoking would be a colossal understatement, as evidenced by the many questions and the subsequent debates which continued over refreshments until long after the main event had finished.

The Technology Law Futures Group is of course extremely grateful to Nick for taking the time to address the Society and delighted that its launch event attracted such a large audience. We are pleased to have set the bar so high for the future, and aim to continue to arrange relevant, timely and, above all, stimulating events on the impact of current and future technologies on the law and society at large. We hope also that both attendees and any other members interested in the ability of Superintelligence to either revolutionise human existence or to condemn it to the annals of history will take the opportunity to continue their post-event discussions at the upcoming SCL Technology Law Futures Conference on 18 and 19 June, where it forms the main topic under consideration.

Oliver Lawson is a Senior Associate at Stevens & Bolton LLP