Elon Musk, Internet darling and CEO of Tesla Motors, was speaking before the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics department’s Centennial Symposium on Friday. In the middle of his session, he distractedly mused on some foreboding thoughts about artificial intelligence.
"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence.
"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.
"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."
This is not the first time that Musk has issued a warning about artificial intelligence. Back in August he tweeted:
Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014
Musk referenced “Superintelligence by Bostrom”, evidently referring to Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies by Nick Bostrom, a recent book.
The Amazon description for Bostrom’s book reads:
Superintelligence asks the questions: What happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence? Will artificial agents save or destroy us?
If machine brains surpassed human brains in general intelligence, then this new superintelligence could become extremely powerful - possibly beyond our control. As the fate of the gorillas now depends more on humans than on the species itself, so would the fate of humankind depend on the actions of the machine superintelligence.
Most of what lay persons “know” about artificial intelligence and the dangers therein lies in movies like The Matrix and the Terminator films and television show. In these imaginings, artificial intelligence grows controlled until it reaches a tipping point where it quickly outpaces man’s ability to control it. It progresses on, unfeeling and cold, reasoning that man is too flawed and weak to be depended upon as a facet of its existence. It then seeks to either eliminate or subjugate humans.