by Derek Oldman
Researchers at Cambridge University are set to investigate the possibility of technology one day turning against the human race.
The new Centre for the Study of Existential Risk will look at the potential dangers to humankind posed by biotechnology, artificial life, nanotechnology and climate change.
Cambridge philosophy professor Huw Price, cosmology and astrophysics professor Martin Rees and Skype's Jaan Tallinn have co-founded the project, which is due to launch next year.
Although the idea of a robot uprising may sound like the plot of a science fiction blockbuster, Prof Price suggested it might not be so far-fetched.
He told the AFP news agency: "It seems a reasonable prediction that some time in this or the next century, intelligence will escape from the constraints of biology."
The professor added: "What we're trying to do is to push it forward in the respectable scientific community."
In a recent article, Prof Price and Tallinn observed that Cambridge-trained mathematician IJ Good was the first academic to consider the possibility of machines eventually surpassing human capabilities to write computer programs.