AUSTIN, Texas -- In Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator movies a fictional company called Skynet creates a legion of self-aware machines that wage nuclear war on humans. At South by Southwest, a group of protesters gathered Saturday to warn of that future, chanting, "Stop the robots! Stop the robots!" to raise awareness about the dangers of artificial intelligence.
“We like technology. Technology is a good thing, but we don't want it to take advantage of us,” said Preston Cone, the co-leader of the Austin wing of Stop The Robots, an organization based in Washington. Artificial intelligence “can take away our jobs in technology, and it can take away our jobs eventually in other areas.”
Though many gathered around wondered aloud if the protest was just another SXSW marketing stunt, Cone and colleague Christopher Gill said they were dead serious about the risks robots and artificial intelligence pose, specifically when it comes to replacing human jobs. Already, technology is beginning to eliminate low-level positions, including cashiers at grocery stores and even telemarketers, Cone and Gill said. It sounds like a joke, but they actually aren't kidding.
“Who gets pissed off when you call your bank and you can't even get a human? That's a robot's fault,” Gill yelled at the crowd.
Unfortunately for Gill and Cone, the tech world's interest in artificial intelligence is ramping up. Google alone has acquired multiple artificial intelligence startups in the past year, including DeepMind, which was purchased for $500 million.
"Technology isn't always bad," Gill said. "We just got to be mindful of it and where it's going.” For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org -- no, seriously.