From getting behind the wheel of an electric car revolution to charting the next steps in space exploration, Elon Musk has made a name for himself as a visionary entrepreneur. However, the billionaire maverick has chosen to err on the side of caution when it comes to artificial intelligence (AI).
Musk has been a vocal critic of AI, calling it the ‘biggest existential threat’ of our times, and has been a leading proponent of the development of this technology undergoing regulation.
Although Musk’s claims about AI’s near-term dangers may be exaggerated, it seems to hold up against contemporary debates on the topic. It also helps put some of these discussions into perspective.
Here is a compilation of the top ten quotes on AI from one of the best minds in the technology space. While some – or most – of them might have crossed your newsfeed at some point, they might provoke you to think deeply about the rapid growth of AI.
“The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI…[also] when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”
In a documentary by American filmmaker Chris Paine, Musk dove into how the development of AI by a company or a group of people could result in the type of superintelligence that would eventually govern the world. What is more, he cited the example of Google’s DeepMind as the perfect example of this kind of technological advancement.
“If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it…It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants, we’re just building a road.”
The same documentary quoted above examined a number of applications of AI, likr autonomous weapons and algorithms that drive fake news, including pop cultural references of AI such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Ex Machina’ as well.
“China, Russia, soon all countries w[ith] strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3.”
Making a dark, foreboding warning against AI in a tweet, Musk hinted that it could be the cause of World War 3. He was responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin who said on the microblogging site that the first global leader in AI would become the ‘ruler of the world’.
In response to one Twitter user, Musk also indicated that this war could be automated.
“If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk(y) than North Korea.”
Issuing a stark warning about AI, the entrepreneur had also suggested that the technology could pose a bigger threat to the world than a nuclear war with North Korea. In the Twitter post, he had used an image carrying the words – In the end, the machines will win.
“Mark my words, AI is far more dangerous than nukes…why do we have no regulatory oversight?”
Speaking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) tech conference 2018 in Austin, Texas, Musk bore down on his ominous warnings about the risks of AI and that, the fact that there is no regulatory body overseeing its development is “insane”.
Musk had called out regulatory oversight when it came to AI in another occasion as well.
“AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation than be reactive.”
“I am not normally an advocate of regulation and oversight…I think one should generally err on the side of minimizing those things…but this is a case where you have a very serious danger to the public.”
‘The biggest issue I see with so-called AI experts is that they think they know more than they do, and they think they are smarter than they actually are…This tends to plague smart people. They define themselves by their intelligence and they don’t like the idea that a machine could be way smarter than them, so they discount the idea — which is fundamentally flawed.”
During the same interaction at SXSW 2018, Musk goes on to call those who ignore his warnings “fools”. Well.
“Robots will be able to do everything better than us…I am not sure exactly what to do about this. This is really the scariest problem to me.”
Speaking at the National Governors Association, Musk said that this is apparent when you see that robots can learn to walk in just a few hours – faster than any human being. According to him, people are not as afraid of robotics as they should be because they don’t fully comprehend its potential.
“I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it…AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not — they were harmful to a set of individuals within society, of course, but they were not harmful to society as a whole.”
At the same event quoted above, Musk, yet again, implored for regulation of emerging technologies like AI.
“AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity.”
Recommending a book by MIT professor Max Tegmark called ‘Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”, Musk called AI the best or worst thing to happen to humanity.
“[Governments] don’t need to follow normal laws. They will obtain AI developed by companies at gunpoint, if necessary.”
Commenting on the existential threat posed by AI, a Twitter user had suggested that governments would lag behind in the AI race. But Musk felt differently.