Musk Shocks Tech World: “SpaceX Uses Basically No AI, Starlink Does Not Use AI”

Musk responded by revealing that SpaceX currently uses almost no AI, adding, "Oddly enough, one of the areas where there's almost no AI used is space exploration."He elaborated, "SpaceX uses basically...
Musk Shocks Tech World: “SpaceX Uses Basically No AI, Starlink Does Not Use AI”
Written by Rich Ord
  • At the 27th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, offered a bold prediction on the future of intelligence. Musk envisions a world where digital intelligence dominates and biological intelligence plays a minimal role. According to Musk, “eventually, the percentage of intelligence that is biological will be less than 1%.”

    Musk framed the rapid advances in artificial intelligence as a defining challenge for humanity, suggesting that the digital kind will soon overshadow biological intelligence. “The percentage of intelligence that is biological, you know, grows smaller with each passing month,” he said. “Eventually, the percentage of intelligence that is biological will be less than 1%.”

    Despite this forecast, Musk acknowledged that biological intelligence could safeguard digital intelligence: “I think biological intelligence can serve as a backstop, as a buffer of intelligence. But almost all intelligence will be digital.”

    However, Musk also emphasized the importance of building AI responsibly. “I think it’s very important that we build the AI in a way that is beneficial to humanity,” he said. “The AI should not be taught to lie. It should not be taught to say things that are not true, even if those things are politically incorrect.”

    During the discussion, Michael Milken, acting as the moderator, posed questions about the potential for AI to enhance space-related efforts and its role in achieving specific objectives. Musk responded by revealing that SpaceX currently uses almost no AI, adding, “Oddly enough, one of the areas where there’s almost no AI used is space exploration.”

    He elaborated, “SpaceX uses basically no AI, Starlink does not use AI. I’m not against using it. We haven’t seen a use for it.” Musk also noted the underwhelming performance of current AI language models in tackling complex space-related topics like the Fermi paradox and rocket engine design.

    Despite his reservations about AI in space exploration, Musk remains optimistic about AI’s potential in other fields. His startup company, xAI, aims to accelerate human scientific discovery through artificial intelligence. Earlier this year, xAI was valued at $18 billion in a funding round, highlighting the significant potential investors see in Musk’s AI ventures.

    Musk’s Vision for AI and Humanity

    In his discussion at the Milken Institute Global Conference, Musk stressed the need to guide AI development in a direction beneficial to humanity. He emphasized transparency and truthfulness as paramount principles. “The AI should not be taught to lie,” he asserted. “It should not be taught to say things that are not true, even if those things are politically incorrect.”

    Musk pointed out that the advent of increasingly advanced AI models will drastically shift the balance between biological and digital intelligence. With the pace of technological advancement, he envisions a future where biological intelligence will make up less than 1% of total intelligence. Yet, he sees a continuing role for humanity, believing that biological intelligence can serve as a vital buffer, ensuring a backstop of intelligence in case digital systems falter. “Biological intelligence can serve as a backstop, as a buffer of intelligence,” Musk explained.

    He expressed concern over the potential challenges AI might pose to humanity’s relevance in the future. “What role will there be for us? I don’t know,” Musk admitted, acknowledging that the rapid rise of digital intelligence could redefine the purpose and place of human beings.

    Beyond ethical considerations, Musk believes that building AI with maximum truth-seeking is crucial for the technology’s safety and usefulness. He advocates for an AI system that prioritizes transparency and integrity, highlighting the importance of an unwavering commitment to truth, even if politically incorrect. “It’s very important that we build the AI in a way that is beneficial to humanity,” Musk said.

    This isn’t the first time Musk has addressed concerns over AI safety. In 2015, he co-founded OpenAI to develop artificial intelligence that benefits humanity as a whole. However, since leaving OpenAI, he has expressed mixed feelings about the organization’s direction, emphasizing that the world must approach AI development cautiously.

    These cautionary principles are evident in Musk’s ventures. His startup company, xAI, seeks to accelerate human scientific discovery while adhering to Musk’s ethical framework. Musk envisions a future where xAI and other projects contribute positively to human civilization by ensuring AI’s responsible deployment.

    In a recent interview, Musk reiterated his belief in AI’s transformative potential, calling it “the greatest potential breakthrough in our lifetime.” He also acknowledged the small but real chance that AI could end humanity. His dual focus on maximizing AI’s potential and managing its existential risks shapes his overarching vision of a future where humanity and digital intelligence coexist responsibly.

    Musk’s vision also includes integrating AI meaningfully into his other businesses. At Tesla, AI plays a critical role in enhancing the development of autonomous vehicles. Despite pausing Tesla’s AI development due to his lack of a 25% stake in the company, Musk has implemented a chatbot called Grok into his social media platform X (formerly Twitter). It plans to leverage AI for news summarization.

    As Musk continues to champion responsible AI development, his words at the Milken Institute Global Conference reflect his steadfast belief in balancing AI’s immense potential with a keen awareness of its possible dangers. Ultimately, Musk remains committed to ensuring that humanity can navigate and thrive in a rapidly approaching era dominated by digital intelligence.

    xAI and Accelerating Scientific Discovery

    Musk’s xAI, a startup he founded in 2023, aims to revolutionize scientific discovery through artificial intelligence. With a vision to “understand the true nature of the universe,” xAI seeks to harness the power of AI to tackle humanity’s most pressing scientific questions. Despite his skepticism about the immediate utility of AI in space exploration, Musk remains optimistic about its broader scientific potential.

    At the Milken Institute Global Conference, Musk highlighted xAI’s mission to push the boundaries of human knowledge, particularly in physics, chemistry, and cosmology. He spoke passionately about the need for AI to enhance humanity’s understanding of the universe, saying, “AI will eventually surpass human intelligence in many fields, but we should guide it to answer the deepest questions about our existence.”

    xAI’s approach is rooted in accelerating scientific research, drawing on vast datasets and computational power to solve complex problems. For instance, the company aims to use AI to decipher the Fermi paradox—the apparent contradiction between the high probability of extraterrestrial life and the lack of evidence. xAI is also exploring how AI can drive advancements in rocket engine design, electrochemistry, and materials science.

    Musk sees xAI as an intellectual extension of his other ventures. While SpaceX has not fully embraced AI, xAI seeks to bridge this gap by developing tools that could one day improve rocket design or optimize interplanetary exploration strategies. Moreover, xAI’s collaboration with Tesla and X (formerly Twitter) is expected to yield valuable insights that will further integrate AI into Musk’s broader technological ecosystem.

    One of xAI’s primary goals is to develop AI models that mimic human intelligence and exceed it. To achieve this, the company is working on new architectures and training methods to empower AI to think more creatively and reason more effectively. Musk’s team of engineers and researchers aims to build AI systems that can identify patterns and make inferences beyond what traditional scientific methods can achieve.

    xAI’s ambitions align with Musk’s belief in AI’s potential to accelerate scientific progress. Earlier this year, xAI was valued at $18 billion in a funding round, underscoring investor confidence in Musk’s vision. Despite his reservations about AI’s current limitations, Musk sees xAI as a catalyst for transformative scientific breakthroughs, stating, “xAI will help us answer the questions that have puzzled humanity for centuries.”

    As xAI grows, its work will likely influence Musk’s other ventures, particularly SpaceX and Tesla. By developing AI models that can understand and predict complex scientific phenomena, xAI could lay the groundwork for future innovations in space exploration and sustainable transportation. Musk remains hopeful that the advancements made at xAI will ultimately contribute to humanity’s long-term survival and prosperity.

    In this rapidly evolving landscape, xAI represents Musk’s commitment to leveraging AI for good. By prioritizing transparency, ethical development, and truth-seeking, Musk aims to build a foundation for responsible AI that can unlock new frontiers of knowledge while safeguarding humanity’s future.

    SpaceX, National Security Agencies, and AI

    Despite his reservations about the immediate applications of artificial intelligence in space exploration, Elon Musk has strengthened SpaceX’s ties with national security agencies, expanding its role in U.S. defense and intelligence. During the Milken Institute Global Conference, Musk acknowledged SpaceX’s evolving partnership with government entities, underscoring the company’s strategic importance in securing American interests in space.

    SpaceX is currently working on a classified contract valued at $1.8 billion with the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), one of the most secretive intelligence agencies in the United States. This initiative, reportedly involving the construction of hundreds of satellites, aims to create a network of spy satellites designed to provide critical surveillance capabilities. Musk’s vision of leveraging Starlink’s satellite technology aligns with the NRO’s objectives, emphasizing SpaceX’s growing footprint in national security.

    The classified project represents SpaceX’s largest government contract to date and reflects the increasing confidence of national security agencies in the company’s technological prowess. The initiative will likely involve Starlink’s low-Earth orbit satellites, which can provide rapid, high-resolution imagery and secure communication channels. The strategic partnership could revolutionize intelligence-gathering operations by offering real-time data across remote regions where traditional surveillance tools fall short.

    Beyond surveillance, SpaceX’s growing relationship with the Department of Defense includes collaboration with the U.S. Space Force. The company is a critical partner in the military’s efforts to modernize space operations, providing reliable satellite communication and launch services. In 2022, SpaceX secured a five-year contract worth $2.9 billion to develop and operate advanced military satellites, emphasizing its long-term commitment to national security.

    SpaceX’s role in defense is not limited to surveillance and communications. The company has also explored the potential of its Starship spacecraft for rapid global military transport. This concept, supported by the Pentagon, envisions using the massive rocket to transport troops and equipment across the globe within an hour, dramatically reducing deployment times and enhancing military readiness.

    Musk’s strategy of integrating SpaceX’s commercial and national security interests has enabled the company to diversify its revenue streams while solidifying its position as a leader in space technology. However, this alignment with defense and intelligence agencies has drawn criticism from privacy advocates concerned about space militarization and global security implications.

    Despite these concerns, SpaceX remains focused on expanding its role in national security while exploring the potential of artificial intelligence to enhance its capabilities. Although Musk maintains that current AI models have not met SpaceX’s needs, the company continues experimenting with AI applications that could improve satellite operations and space mission planning.

    In this context, Musk’s vision for xAI and its potential to accelerate scientific discovery may ultimately benefit SpaceX’s defense projects. By developing advanced AI models tailored to space exploration and surveillance, xAI could provide SpaceX with a competitive edge in its government contracts. Integrating AI and satellite technology may pave the way for new innovations that strengthen SpaceX’s role in safeguarding U.S. interests in space.

    Musk’s nuanced perspective on AI’s role in space exploration reflects the delicate balance he must strike between technological advancement and ethical considerations. As SpaceX continues to work closely with national security agencies, Musk remains focused on ensuring that AI development aligns with his broader vision of humanity’s long-term survival and prosperity.

    Musk’s Visionary Outlook

    Elon Musk’s participation at the Milken Institute Global Conference highlighted his forward-thinking vision for artificial intelligence and space exploration, revealing a blend of skepticism and optimism that continues to shape the technological landscape. Despite expressing reservations about the current utility of AI in space-related endeavors, he emphasized that the future of intelligence is inextricably linked to digital advancements. Musk predicted that eventually, “the percentage of intelligence that is biological will be less than 1%,” a bold assertion that underscores his belief in AI’s transformative potential.

    However, Musk’s vision extends beyond AI’s rapid evolution to its ethical development and alignment with human values. He advocates for a truth-seeking approach to AI design, stressing that systems “should not be taught to lie” and “should not be taught to say things that are not true.” Musk underscores the importance of creating AI that serves humanity’s best interests by advocating for transparency in AI.

    Musk also acknowledges the challenges of integrating AI into space exploration, stating “SpaceX uses basically no AI, Starlink does not use AI.” Nevertheless, he remains optimistic about xAI’s potential to unlock new frontiers in scientific discovery, noting that it is crucial to build AI in a way that “is beneficial to humanity.” His startup, xAI, aims to accelerate scientific breakthroughs through AI innovation. Whether in language processing, space engineering, or scientific modeling, xAI seeks to redefine the boundaries of what is possible.

    Meanwhile, Musk’s approach to SpaceX’s relationship with national security agencies reflects a pragmatic strategy to secure government support while maintaining technological independence. By developing a network of spy satellites for the National Reconnaissance Office and exploring the potential of Starship for rapid military transport, SpaceX is aligning its commercial ambitions with national defense priorities.

    This multifaceted vision positions Musk at the forefront of AI and space exploration, cementing his role as a leading innovator of the 21st century. While challenges remain in harmonizing his enterprises’ ethical, technological, and commercial aspects, Musk’s visionary outlook continues to inspire groundbreaking advances. He emphasizes the responsible development of AI, believing that AI should be “beneficial to humanity” and not be “brittle” due to “silicon circuit boards [that] don’t do well just out in the elements.”

    Ultimately, Musk’s ideas about AI and space reveal a conviction that humanity must transcend its current limitations and embrace a future where digital and biological intelligence coexist symbiotically. He remains determined to ensure that these technologies are developed responsibly, providing a guiding light in an era of rapid innovation. As xAI, SpaceX, and Tesla push the boundaries of what’s possible, Musk’s visionary outlook will undoubtedly continue to influence the trajectory of technology and humanity for years to come.

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