Elon Musk: AI arms race between superpowers could trigger World War III

4 Sep 2017

AI arms race could trigger nuclear war, warns Elon Musk. Image: Inked Pixels/Shutterstock

Elon Musk is making bold claims about the future of artificial intelligence once again, claiming that an AI arms race could destroy the world.

At this point, Elon Musk’s opinion on artificial intelligence (AI) is well documented, and he is certainly on the more pessimistic side of how powerful AI can be, recently calling on the UN to ban ‘killer robots’.

In response to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s claim that the country with the best AI will be “the ruler of the world”, Musk took to Twitter once again to suggest that this AI arms race could lead to nuclear war and World War III.

When explaining further what he meant, Musk suggested that while he does not think that countries such as the US, China and Russia will purposefully start a potential nuclear conflict, “but one of the AI’s, if it decides that a prepemptive strike is most probable path to victory [sic]”.

Despite the ongoing tension in the Korean Peninsula over North Korea’s latest test of a hydrogen bomb, Musk also commented that even if such weapons were used, he does not fear it triggering another world war, unlike AI run amok.

AI is the future for all of humankind

Putin’s comments on AI came at a speech given ahead of the start of the new school year in Russia where, according to Russia Today, he made the plain statement that “the future belongs to AI” and that the leader in this field will have an enormous advantage over its rivals.

However, Putin added that he thinks such a monopoly would not be good news for anyone, including his own country.

“AI is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

He continued: “If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with [the] entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today.”

Suggesting that the future of warfare will likely be fought with drones, Putin added that “when one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender”.

This scenario is what Musk and 100 other signatories of the open letter to the UN are hoping to prevent.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic