Elon Musk Ups The Anti-AI Rhetoric By Comparing The Technology To Demons

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
SpaceX and Tesla Motors founder Elon Musk has never been shy about sharing his concerns over the potential hazards of artificial intelligence (AI), and he pulled no punches again on Friday when asked about the topic at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s 2014 Centennial Symposium.
According to SlashGear’s Brittany Hillen, Musk took part in a one-on-one question and answer session at the event, and Matt McFarland of the Washington Post said that he spoke for more than an hour and even took the time to ask one MIT student what his favorite sci-fi books were.
His comments about AI were what made headlines, though. Musk, who previously tweeted that AI could pose a greater threat to humanity than nuclear weapons, said Friday that people “should be very careful about artificial intelligence” and that he believed the technology could be the “biggest existential threat” the citizens of Earth currently face.
“Increasingly scientists think 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,” the South African-born inventor and entrepreneur added. “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

As Hillen pointed out, Musk is far from the only person who sees potential danger in an AI-dominated future. Earlier this year, the United Nations held a meeting about intelligent “killer robots,” she said, and in May, Stephen Hawking wrote in a column for a UK newspaper that artificial intelligence could be “the worst thing to happen to humanity.”
“The potential benefits are huge; 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 that AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease, and poverty would be high on anyone’s list,” Hawking added. “Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks.”
Musk’s original comments on the matter came in August, shortly after he said he had finished reading the book “Superintelligence” by Swedish philosopher and Oxford professor Nick Bostrom. The book, which explores what will happen if and when machines become more intelligent than humans, was released in the US on September 1.
The issue is clearly still weighing heavily on Musk’s mind – so much so that, according to McFarland and Mashable’s Adario Strange, after the next questioner asked him about telecommunications, Musk hesitated briefly before asking the individual to repeat the question. Musk said he hadn’t heard it because he was still mulling over the whole AI issue.
By “invoking the one thing even those with little interest in technology fear the most,” Musk “actually managed to raise the bar in terms of making AI seem scary,” Strange said. “Sure, it’s just a colorful metaphor, but coming from such an accomplished technologist, those comments are pretty startling. Musk is scared. Really scared.”
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