J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Defense of Humanity

After helping invent the atomic bomb, the physicist spent decades thinking about how to preserve civilization from technological dangers, offering crucial lessons for the age of AI

As Christopher Nolan’s film Oppenheimer makes its way to the box office, David Nirenberg, IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor, discusses the continued significance of Oppenheimer’s tenure as Director of the Institute for Advanced Study.

The Nolan biopic will “bring [Oppenheimer’s] story to theaters at a timely moment, when the world is once again worried that a new technology [artificial intelligence] threatens the future of humanity.”

“Oppenheimer, Einstein, von Neumann and other Institute faculty channeled much of their effort toward what AI researchers today call the 'alignment' problem: how to make sure our discoveries serve us instead of destroying us. Their approaches to this increasingly pressing problem remain instructive.”

As highlighted by his appointment of scholars from diverse areas of expertise to the Institute Faculty, Oppenheimer “believed that the challenges of the future could only be met by bringing the technological and the human together. The technological challenges are growing, but the cultural abyss separating STEM from the arts, humanities, and social sciences has only grown wider. More than ever, we need institutions capable of helping them think together.”

Read more at Wall Street Journal.