Professor Stephen Hawking delivered a keynote address on artificial intelligence (AI) via video at Web Summit opening night. Professor Hawking was invited to speak at Web Summit by Feedzai, an AI company specialising in fraud prevention.

A capacity audience of 15,000 people packed out Lisbon’s Altice Arena to hear Professor Hawking’s thoughts and aspirations about AI and its role in the future of our society, as well as words of warning while addressing the need for ethics and controllability in the development of AI.

After being introduced by Paddy Cosgrave, Web Summit CEO, and Nuno Sebastião, Feedzai CEO, Professor Hawking said:

“We cannot predict what we might achieve, when our own minds are amplified by AI.  Perhaps with the tools of this new technological revolution, we will be able to undo some of the damage done to the natural world by the last one, industrialisation. We will aim to finally eradicate disease and poverty. Every aspect of our lives will be transformed.”

While also warning about potential risks, Professor Hawking said that:

“I am an optimist and I believe that we can create AI for the good of the world. That it can work in harmony with us. We simply need to be aware of the dangers, identify them, employ the best possible practice and management, and prepare for its consequences well in advance. Perhaps some of you listening today will already have solutions or answers to the many questions AI poses.

“We all have a role to play in making sure that we, and the next generation, have not just the opportunity, but the determination, to engage fully with the study of science at an early level, so that we can go on to fulfil our potential, and create a better world for the whole human race. We need to take learning beyond a theoretical discussion of how AI should be, and take action to make sure we plan for how it can be. You all have the potential to push the boundaries of what is accepted, or expected, and to think big. We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be and you are the pioneers.”