Elon Musk calls artificial intelligence ‘our biggest existential threat’

27 Oct 2014

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Elon Musk doesn’t trust artificial intelligence. So much so, in fact, that the chairman and CEO of Tesla Motors has compared its development to “summoning the demon”.

Musk's comments came during the Q&A session that followed an interview at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AeroAstro Centennial Symposium on Friday (24 October). When asked by an audience member for his thoughts on artificial intelligence, the 43-year-old delivered the warning that AI could be "our biggest existential threat".

"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence," said Musk.

"I’m increasingly inclined to think that 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.

"With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know 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? Doesn’t work out."

When the audience member then joked that "there’ll be no HAL 9000 going to Mars" (referring to the villainous sentient computer that controls the Discovery One spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey), Musk replies: "HAL 9000 would be easy [to handle compared to the AI I'm talking about]. It’s way more complex… it’d put HAL 9000 to shame. That’s like a puppy dog."

Perhaps someone should have asked the man who's been dubbed a real life Tony Stark on more than one occasion where Iron-Man would be without his loyal AI program J.A.R.V.I.S?

As discovered by Tech Crunch, Musk's AI response comes around the 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 20 seconds mark.

Musk's comments come just weeks after he revealed the new Tesla electric car, the SD model, which promises to deliver as close to a driverless car as possible.

The vehicle will be able to read road signs through its camera array and lower speed accordingly. When pulling into the driveway, the SD will allow the driver to get out and, if they’re trustworthy of the initial models, allow it to park itself in their garage.The sensors also allow the driver to put on their indicator and the car will automatically judge whether it is safe to move into the other lane and continue driving.

Elon Musk image via Shutterstock

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Dean is a freelance journalist and editor covering media.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com