Elon Musk Fears The Advent Of Artificial Intelligence

 Guest writer, MAC, reports on Musk’s emerging fear of science-fiction become science-fact.

Image: dvice.com


Do androids dream of electric sheep?

Elon Musk, the creator of Pay Pal, Tesla and more recently, SpaceX, seems to be enjoying his newfound niche role of Future Visionary Guru. It doesn’t seem to matter what he is commenting on these days as when he does pass judgment, ears in the Techie World perk up.

Musk is of course famous for trying to push the boundaries of the tech-envelope ever further and to get us all to adopt future technology now. He has even created an almost open-source environment for patents held by Tesla Motors.

However, a recent mini-rant from the Future Guru on his Twitter account drew the attention of techies and non-techies alike, when he revealed that he is more worried about an artificial intelligence (A.I.) apocalypse than most would have previously thought.

In the recent post, after recommending a book on A.I., Musk made what some are talking about as his most controversial comment of his career thus far when he tweeted: “We need to be super careful with A.I. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.” The book he read was Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, a work by Nick Bostrom and of course his comments need to be read in the context of the book, which asks questions about how people will cope with super-intelligent computers in the future.

There is a fascinating new film out there called HER in which Spike Jonze, the writer and director who is already being tipped to win an Oscar for his work, explores the concept of Singularity, a fairly recent concept discussed by the likes of Google’s Ray Kurzweil. Singularity is the theoretical point in the future when A.I. exceeds the power of the human mind, becomes self-aware and dramatically changes the balance of power on the planet and thus changing the very nature of humanity.

Movie still from HER. The lead character enters a relationship with his operating system. Image: wikipedia

Regardless of the context of the comment, the comparison of A.I. to nuclear weapons is pretty strong, particularly if you lived in Europe during the Cold War and thus must cast a worrying shadow over much of the last 30 years’ progress in technological advancement, especially in terms of humanity’s longevity possibly being cut short by a nuclear war-like event.

Musk’s previous comments and predictions of the future, particularly when it comes to the use of EV cars and space travel, have long been seen as evidence that he watches far too many sci-fi films. I can see in the coming weeks many articles will be written on how we can now discount Musk’s long term views on his own technology if he truly believes that robots will assume command of the world and destroy humanity in much the same way that they did on films like The Matrix trilogy.

Comparing A.I. with nukes may be a little far-fetched for some but it would appear not so for Musk who later wrote: “Hope we’re not just the biological boot loader for digital super intelligence. Unfortunately, that is increasingly probable.”


Should we be worried about a “Terminator” future? Image: wikipedia.

This isn’t the first time Musk has made science fiction-inspired comments; most though, in the past, have revolved around colonising Mars, but this latest comment, and the one he made back in June about fearing a “Terminator” future, indicate that this is a serious issue for the tech mogul.

We may at this point, though, have to consider that perhaps there is something that Mr. Musk is not telling us. He is in fact an investor in the same company as Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos of Facebook and Amazon respectively in an A.I. research company called Vicarious. So, I guess if he is a believer in the danger of future A.I. threat, he must be hedging his bets with Mark and Jeff and the others over at Vicarious. I guess androids may indeed dream of electronic sheep after all.

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