Elon Musk Warns ‘Greatest Risk’ To Civilization Is Artificial Intelligence

Tesla CEO Elon Musk advised a gathering of United States governors today that the rapid development of artificial intelligence poses dangers that require government oversight. Without such limits, he warned, such technology may well pose insurmountable challenges to human civilization.

“On the artificial intelligence front, I have access to the very most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it,” he opined in a question-and-answer session with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. “I keep sounding the alarm bell but until people see like, robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.”

“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry. It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

Musk continued by presenting a scenario wherein a “deep intelligence” creates fake news and sends out fake press releases via false email accounts. Such activity, he warned, could result in a flood of false information and possibly spark armed conflict.

Elon Musk unveils The Dragon V2 in 2014 [Image by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

In addition to war, Musk prophesied that advancing AI technology could lead to social instability due to job losses. He indicated that the first casualty to AI is likely to be the 4.6 million jobs in the transportation industry that are currently held by humans. Owning a regular, non-autonomous car in two decades will be the equivalent of riding a horse, he opined. However, Musk warned that such convenience will come at the price of the very real risk of fleet-wide vehicle hacks.

He continued by fleshing out his reasoning for involving government by arguing that such regulation is the only counter to the push by the free market’s invisible hand to continue development or risk losing business.

“That’s where you need the regulators to come in and say, hey guys, you all need to just pause and make sure this is safe… You kind of need the regulators to do that for all the teams in the game. Otherwise the shareholders will be saying, why aren’t you developing AI faster? Because your competitor is.”

Making matters worse, he went on, is the fact that the majority of large companies pursuing such technology are publicly traded firms, and are accountable to shareholders for failing to stay ahead of AI trends.

The most important task, explained Musk, is to learn as much as possible about AI and the threat it poses to humanity. He used as an example the “remarkable” progress Google DeepMind made in learning the game of Go, rocketing from square one to gaining the ability to eviscerate dozens of the game’s top minds simultaneously in under a year.

Elon Musk speaks at the launch of Tesla Model X Crossover SUV in 2015 [Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

Musk made his comments at a meeting of the National Governor’s Association in Providence, Rhode Island, earlier today. Although his remarks were significantly more dire and made with greater urgency, the inventor and entrepreneur has long been candid regarding his opinions of artificial intelligence and the threat he envisions it posing if left unchecked. The risk hasn’t stopped him from developing a method for connecting a human brain to AI software; however, he told the assembled gathering that part of his motivation for colonizing Mars is to provide a back-up residence for human civilization in the event that the AI we create slips its leash.

[Featured Image by VCG/Getty Images]

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