Tegmark, president of the Future of Life Institute at MIT, made this rather grandiose statement: "In creating AI [artificial intelligence], we're birthing a new form of life with unlimited potential for good or ill." A study by Sir Nigel Shadbolt and Roger Hampson entitled The Digital Ape carries the subtitle How to Live (in Peace) with Smart Machines. They are optimistic that humans will still be in charge, provided we approach the process sensibly. But is this optimism justified? The director of Cambridge University's Centre for the Study of Existential Risk said: "We live in a world that could become fraught with . . .
The Thorp nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield, Cumbria, has recycled its final batch of reactor fuel. But it leaves behind a hugely toxic legacy for future generations to deal with. So how will it be made safe? Thorp still looks almost new; a giant structure of cavernous halls, deep blue-tinged cooling ponds and giant lifting cranes, imposing in fresh yellow paint. But now the complex process of decontaminating and dismantling begins.
The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is part of a consortium which has received a £4.6 million grant to build a new generation of robots for use in nuclear sites. The funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will help develop smaller robotics technologies that will be able to operate autonomously and effectively in hazardous environments. The cost of cleaning up the UK's existing nuclear facilities has been estimated to be between £95 billion and £219 billion over the next 120 years. The harsh conditions within these facilities means human access is highly restricted and much of the work will need to be completed by robots. Present robotics technology is not capable of completing many of the tasks that will be required.