This week marked a grim anniversary of sorts for artificial intelligence (AI). On a Sunday night this time last year, Ms Elaine Herzberg stepped off an ornamental median strip to cross Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona. It was just before 10pm and the 49-year-old homeless woman was pushing a bicycle laden with shopping bags. She had nearly made it to the other side of the four-lane road when an Uber test vehicle travelling at 70kmh collided with her from the right. Ms Herzberg was taken to hospital but died of her injuries, unwittingly earning a place in history as the first pedestrian death caused by a self-driving car.
The opportunities and the threats of technology often advance hand in hand. The term "artificial intelligence" was coined at a 1956 conference in Dartmouth College in the United States. Twelve years later, Stanley Kubrick's film 2001: A Space Odyssey offered a chilling vision of a machine empowered to override the decisions of its human counterparts, the HAL 9000's eerily calm voice explaining why a spacecraft's mission to Jupiter was more important than the lives of its crew.