Dean Richards Staff WriterArtificial Intelligence is not just science fiction, and its invention might well become the biggest event in human history. Whether that will be in a successful or in a destructive way remains to be seen, according to four leading scientists, including Stephen Hawking. A few weeks ago the film Transcendence was released in cinemas worldwide, showing Johnny Depp and Morgan Freeman with very different visions of what a future with Artificial Intelligence (AI) might mean. In the film, things do not go as planned (of course), but does that mean that we would actually be at risk of AI taking over our lives? Or are those stories just fiction, always showing the destructive side of it because it's more interesting? The answer is a bit of both. According to the four scientists (Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark and Frank Wilczek), AI has the potential to improve this world beyond our imagination. Just think of the recent achievements such as Siri, self-driving cars and a computer winning at Jeopardy!, and then compare that to how far we were merely five years ago. IT is the future, and that means that every company is throwing heaps of money into it, causing progress to happen so quickly there's no saying where we'll be five years from now. Perhaps the world of Transcendence will be within reach before the decade is over. All of these improvements can be used for amazing things: cures for diseases, ways to get rid of poverty, and perhaps a complete reduction of human labor. Just imagine a world in which energy is free, a situation that, according to Peter Diamandis' highly engaging TED talk, is not only possible, but would also make sure that we can create everything we need without cost. All we need to be able to produce food is energy, so if energy didn't cost anything, world hunger would be gone. Poverty could be abolished. In a world of abundance, there is no limit. Unfortunately, there is also no limit to the destruction it might cause. With that the four scientists don't mean supercomputers becoming so intelligent that they'll live a life of their own and turn against the human race - that might just be fiction. Instead, what they mean are the world's militaries that are considering autonomous-weapon systems, able to choose and eliminate targets without human assistance. Or the fact that if machine labor becomes cheaper than human labour, economic differences would only rise: those without education would lose their jobs, going into poverty, while the educated profit. That is, until it appears that the masses no longer have the money to pay for products. What we do know is that there are no physical laws setting a limit to what we can achieve. Machines truly can become more intelligent and complex than the human brain, and as Douglas Adams already suggested in his world famous book "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy", one day we could create a supercomputer which can then create an even better supercomputer. This is what Johnny Depp's character called "transcendence", and it might truly exist one day. Perhaps the real problem is that we just don't know in which direction the future will bring us. According to the four scientists, that is exactly where the problem lies. We are on the verge of one of the most important events in history, something that could make or break the continued survival and prosperity of the human race, yet we don't research the possible consequences. We pour money into the development of AI, but we don't look into ways to avoid the risks. Only very few non-profit organisations actually spend time on the issues AI might bring, and that is a major problem. Artificial Intelligence could bring enormous benefits to our world, but if we go into it blindfolded, not taking into account the risks, we might just have some very tough years ahead of us.