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Elon Musk: AI will be like being visited by super-intelligent aliens

UntitledMusk
UntitledMusk

Artificial intelligence will be both an aid and a threat to humanity, according to tech and space entrepreneur Elon Musk, who says that in the near future having a discussion with an artificial intelligent machine would be like “being visited by super-intelligent aliens”.

 

Asked if AI was a potential risk or a benefit to humanity during a live session at the World Government Summit in February 2017, the Tesla and SpaceX co-founder said: “I think it's both ... one way to think of it is to imagine we're going to be visited ... by super-intelligent aliens, in let's say 10 years or 20 years at the most.”

 

He added that the autonomy of machines and AI were going to “advance tremendously. My guess is in probably 10 years, it will be very unusual for cars to be built that are not fully autonomous.”

 

But the billionaire returned to the vexed question of AI’s potential to do harm as well as good when he was asked what advice he would give representatives of the 139 governments present at the summit. “I think the first bit of advice is to really pay close attention to the development of artificial intelligence,” he replied.

 

Musk has previously warned about the potential perils of developing machines that are as intelligent as humans – or more so. In 2015, with scientist Stephen Hawking and experts in the field of AI development, Musk signed a letter warning that a lack of caution in the development of the technology could lead to the end of humanity.

 

The letter said: “The potential benefits [of AI] are huge, since everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools AI may provide, but the eradication of disease and poverty are not unfathomable. Because of the great potential of AI, it is important to research how to reap its benefits while avoiding potential pitfalls.”

 

During the live debate in Dubai, led by World Government Summit Chairman His Excellency Mohammad Al Gergawi, Musk also said that, while autonomous machines such as cars would become more widespread, it was a different type of AI that concerned him: “I don't mean narrow AI, like vehicle autonomy, [which is] narrowly trying to achieve a certain function. But deep artificial intelligence, or what is sometimes called artificial general intelligence, where you can have AI that is much smarter than the smartest human on Earth. This, I think, is a dangerous situation.”

 

 

Source: Shutterstock

 

Musk and His Excellency also discussed the risk of what is sometimes known as the “Frankenstein” theory of AI development.

 

Musk said: “We need to be just be very careful in ... how we adopt artificial intelligence, and to make sure that researchers don't get carried away, because sometimes what happens is that scientists can get so engrossed in their work, they don't necessarily realize the ramifications of what they're doing.”

 

“So, I think it's important for public safety that … governments keep a close eye on artificial intelligence and make sure that it does not represent a danger to the public.”

 

In a more light-hearted moment, Musk was asked if he believed we would be visited by aliens in 20 years, to which he replied: “Well, digital super-intelligence will be like an alien.”

 

But when pressed on alien life, the entrepreneur, who is trying to develop commercial space travel with his SpaceX company said: “It seems probable. I think this is one of the great questions in physics and philosophy … where are the aliens? Maybe they are among us, I don't know.”

 

“Some people think I'm an alien. Not true,” he added.

 

Musk was also asked about a statement attributed to him saying he wanted to die on Mars.

 

“To be clear, I don't want to die on Mars,” replied Musk. “[But] if we're all going to die someday, and if you're going to pick some place to die, then why not Mars?”

 

“You know, if you're born on Earth, why not die on Mars? Seems like that may be quite exciting.”