The machines rise, subjugating humanity. It's a science fiction trope that's almost as old as machines themselves. The doomsday scenarios spun around this theme are so outlandish – like The Matrix, in which human-created artificial intelligence plugs humans into a simulated reality to harvest energy from their bodies – it's difficult to visualize them as serious threats.
Meanwhile, artificially intelligent systems continue to develop apace. Self-driving cars are beginning to share our roads; pocket-sized devices respond to our queries and manage our schedules in real-time; algorithms beat us at Go; robots become better at getting up when they fall over. It's obvious how developing these technologies will benefit humanity. But, then – don't all the dystopian sci-fi stories start out this way?
Any discussion about the dystopian potential of AI risks gravitating towards one of two extremes. One is overly credulous scare-mongering. Of course, Siri isn't about to transmogrify into murderous HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the other extreme is equally dangerous – complacency that we don't need to think about these issues, because humanity-threatening AI is decades or more away.