Artificial intelligence brings its brains and money to London


Deep in the heart of Imperial College, London, a computer is learning how to play Pac-Man. Like many humans, it struggles to get the hang of the classic 1980s video game at first. With time though, experience helps it decide which manoeuvres will allow it to evade the clutches of a relentless gang of animated ghosts.

This is just one of dozens of artificial intelligence (AI) projects slowly transforming the UK into the global hub for a technology that elicits fascination and fear in equal measure.

The point of teaching a computer to master Pac-Man is to help it “think” and learn like a human. That is a prospect not everyone feels comfortable with. Fears have been voiced by scientists as eminent as Professor Stephen Hawking that computers could become so clever that they turn against their makers.

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