Resources >‏ News >‏ News Details

News Details

MIT-CSAIL's Patrick Winston: 'AI is not a threat'

Publication Date:

Artificial intelligence expert tells Qatar audience that humans should not consider AI to be a major threat to their existence but should use it to enhance it.


A leading artificial intelligence expert has urged people not to be alarmed about the future of machines, saying humans have a unique kind of intelligence that is difficult for scientists to replicate.

Patrick Winston, a professor of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, told an audience in Qatar that artificial intelligence was based on a system of using “deduction rules", and not “explanation rules”, as is the case in human reasoning.

"We are different because we are the story-understanding species and nothing comes close,” Prof. Winston said.

“Many systems have the capacity of understanding deduction rules – but if a system has only deduction rules it would be as dumb as a stone. We think using explanation rules, which are difficult to engineer.

"We don't just rely on logic - we need much more than logical deductions to tell a story. We are explanation engines. If we don't see a story, we make one up."

Prof. Winston said he that he liked to think of AI as a means to enhance human existence and not to destroy it, fears recently raised by scientists including the physicist Stephen Hawking and SpaceX boss Elon Musk.

“We can use AI to do a better job rather than to replace a person. Tomorrow’s answer is human-like thinking but is not human thinking.  We can use it to gain a better understanding of ourselves and each other and that will make the world a better place.

“AI is not our top threat, I regard something like climate change as among our top threats, so you could say that we are our biggest threat.”

Prof. Winston’s research group at CSAIL studies how humans’ story-understanding faculty separates us from other species. A story-understanding system developed by his group reads simple stories, answers questions about them, asks intelligent questions, identifies concepts, retells persuasively, educates, summaries, compares and authors.

His research integrates work from several allied fields, including AI, computer science, neuroscience, cognitive science, linguistics and paleoanthropology. Prof. Winston’s early work was supervised by the late Marvin Minsky, a computing pioneer regarded as the “father of artificial intelligence”.

His public talk, “The Future of AI: Where we are, how we got there and where we are going”, was the highlight of an annual meeting in Qatar between MIT CSAIL and Hamad bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI).

Dr. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director of QCRI, described Prof. Winston as “one of the finest experts in artificial intelligence”.

“This is a critical time in the development of AI, which has seen a resurgence as advanced AI techniques like deep neural networks, big data and powerful computing hardware are poised to transform society in a way not seen since the industrial revolution,” Dr. Elmagarmid said.

To view the slides from Prof. Winston's talk, please click here.

Follow Us

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS Feed
  • Linkedin
  • github-web.png
Back to Top

In the Media

Economist story pic.JPG

Improving disaster response efforts through data


Extreme weather events put the most vulnerable communities at high risk. How can data analytics strengthen early warning systems and and support relief efforts for communities in need? The size and ...

Read More

Yazan Wired story pic.jpg

Your sloppy bitcoin drug deals will haunt you for years


Perhaps you bought some illegal narcotics on the Silk Road half a decade ago, back when that digital black market for every contraband imaginable was still online and bustling. You might already ...

Read More

Luis Luque El Correo.jpg

Entrevista con Luis Fernández Luque, cofundador de Salumedia e investigador del Qatar Computing Research Institute


Si quiere buscar un ejemplo de ciudadano del mundo, de los que al cabo del año vive y trabaja desde numerosos países, y a través de internet, esté donde esté, desarrolla en remoto actividades para ...

Read More




QCRI & MIT-CSAIL Annual Project Review 2018

Download ICS File 27/03/2018 ,

Executive Overview Sessions Open to public Date:    Tuesday, March 27, 2018 Time:    9:00AM – 3:00PM Venue:  HBKU Research Complex Multipurpose Room To view full agenda, please click here . To RSVP, ...

Read More


Public Talk by Prof. Regina Barzilay "Artificial Intelligence for Oncology: Learning to Cure Cancer from Images and Text"

Download ICS File 27/03/2018 ,

Artificial Intelligence for Oncology: Learning to Cure Cancer from Images and Text A talk by Professor Regina Barzilay, MIT CSAIL Winner of 2017 MacArthur ‘genius grant’ At Education City Student ...

Read More

Eman interns pic 2017.jpg

QCRI Summer Internship Program

Download ICS File 06/05/2018  - 05/07/2018 , Hamad Bin Khalifa Research Complex

Each year, Qatar Computing Research Institute organizes a summer internship program for undergraduate students studying computer science, computer engineering and other disciplines. The internship is unpaid, and QCRI does not provide any visa support.

Read More



QCRI’s Advanced Transcription System snares ARC’18 Best Innovation Award


Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser presents accolade for system that automatically converts speech to text using state-of-the-art speech recognition techniques.

Read More

AHmed Berlin1.jpg

QCRI signs three-year MoU with the Berlin Big Data Center


MoU will promote collaboration via an exchange of research, academic materials, faculty and research scholars.

Read More

CS Fair website.JPG

Hundreds attend QCRI's first Creative Space Fair


Attendance at inaugural event shows 'buoyant interest' in computing in Qatar.

Read More