Elon Musk fears “summoning the demon” with AI

27 Oct 2014


Though a leading advocate of cars smart enough to park and drive themselves, Tesla Motors chief Elon Musk has strong reservations about artificial intelligence, CNET reports.

Elon Musk "With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon," Musk said last week at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial Symposium. "You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon, [but] it doesn't work out."

This has emerged as the recurring theme in Musk's public comments, and each time he warns about the foreboding potential of artificial intelligence he sounds even grimmer.

In June, Musk raised the spectre of the "Terminator" franchise, saying that he invested in companies working on artificial intelligence in order to keep an eye on the technology.

In August, reiterating his concerns in a tweet, he wrote that AI was "potentially more dangerous than nukes." He said a few weeks ago, in a half-joking manner that a future AI system tasked with eliminating spam might decide that the best way to accomplish the task was to eliminate humans.

"If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that," he said, referring to artificial intelligence. "I'm increasingly inclined to think there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish."

Meanwhile, the online edition of Atlanata Journal-Constotution, ajc.com, reported that Musk's concern was somewhat timely - AI research had hit a new wave of popularity among big tech companies, with Google acquiring two artificial intelligence companies, adding to its growing stable of AI researchers.

Also Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is on record saying artificial intelligence formed a key part of Facebook's mission.

However, despite smarter and smarter computer algorithms, most experts still believe AI development was a long way off. According to a recent Computerworld article that noted that there had been much development on specific aspects of AI, other pieces of the puzzle had not seen any recent progress.

Musk's MIT talk focused mostly on space exploration and Mars. He dwelt at length on the problems and potential solutions around a colony on Mars, saying humanity's survival hinged on becoming a "multi-planet species."

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