Skip to content

Positive Intelligent Technologies

Self-Aware Systems is a Palo Alto think-tank working to ensure that intelligent technologies are beneficial for humanity. Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Baidu, IBM, and others have recently invested billions of dollars into AI and robotics and BCG predicts further investment of at least $450 billion over the next decade. McKinsey estimates that by 2025 intelligent technologies will create between 50 and 100 trillion dollars of value. An Oxford study predicts this will lead to 47% of all jobs being automated over the next “decade or two”. These technologies are creating military, cyber, business, and investment arms races that are driving the development of faster, smarter, and more autonomous systems. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and others have recently issued strong cautionary statements about the safety of intelligent technologies. A system’s goals are orthogonal to its intelligence and may lead to either harm or good. So goal choices we make today will have a big impact on future outcomes. Simplistic goals give rise to unintended drives that may be anti-social. But even “superintelligences” will be limited by the laws of mathematics, physics, and cryptography. Mathematical proof can be used to create constrained systems with a high confidence of safety. New cryptographic techniques can be used to create a trusted computation and communication infrastructure. The “Safe-AI Scaffolding Strategy” can leverage this infrastructure to create a path to human thriving.

This website contains our talks and papers on these topics over the past 10 years. Our recent paper “Autonomous technology and the greater human good” was downloaded 10,000 times in the first week to become the most downloaded paper in the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence. James Barrat’s book “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era” is an excellent popular account of some of the issues and is based in part on our work. For a one-hour summary, watch this September 2014 Xerox PARC Forum talk:

AI and Robotics at an Inflection Point.

For a quick introduction, watch the 18 minute TEDx video from May 2012:

Smart Technology for the Greater Good.

For more detail, watch this December 2012 talk at Oxford University:

Autonomous Technologies and the Greater Human Good,

this July 2011 talk at Monash University:

Rationally-Shaped Minds: A Framework for Analyzing Self-Improving AI,

or this October 2007 talk at Stanford University:

Self-Improving Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Computing.

For more depth, read the papers:

Autonomous Technology and the Greater Human Good

Rational Artificial Intelligence for the Greater Good

The Future of Computing: Meaning and Values

The Basic AI Drives

The Nature of Self-Improving Artificial Intelligence

Send email to Steve Omohundro:


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: