The danger of having artificially intelligent machines do our bidding is that we might not be careful enough about what we wish for. The lines of code that animate these machines will inevitably lack nuance, forget to spell out caveats, and end up giving AI systems goals and incentives that don’t align with our true preferences.
A now-classic thought experiment illustrating this problem was posed by the Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom in 2003. Bostrom imagined a superintelligent robot, programmed with the seemingly innocuous goal of manufacturing paper clips. The robot eventually turns the whole world into a giant paper clip factory.