Another month, another person warning us about artificial intelligence (AI). This time it’s everyone’s favorite human and definitely not a robot, Elon Musk.
He was speaking at the US National Governs Association summer meeting in Providence Rhode Island on Saturday. “I have exposure to the very cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it,” the Tesla and SpaceX CEO said. “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal.”
Now, it should be noted that Musk isn’t talking about the AI in your Alexa or Google Home per se. What he’s referencing is artificial general intelligence, which is the idea of a super-intelligent entity that may become a reality in the future.
Some see this as the logical next step after our current, more primitive AI systems. Dozens of scientists signed an open letter in 2015 warning about AI. Stephen Hawking has also gone on record warning that AI could be the end of mankind.
As Musk notes, it is admittedly hard to take these threats seriously at the moment. The idea of an I, Robot-inspired future, or a dystopian future akin to The Matrix, seems a bit far-fetched when Siri can’t even call the right person. But AI has made leaps and bounds in recent years, so who knows what the future holds.
“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late,” Musk added. “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”
The issue, then, seems to be making sure we are ready for any problems AI might throw our way in the future. If we’re unprepared, we might not have a robot Arnie knocking on our door, but there are certainly other issues.
“Arguably the greatest threat is mass population control via message targeting and propaganda bot armies,” François Chollet, the creator of a deep neural net platform, told The Verge. Ooh er.