Unsurprisingly, Elon Musk has been a powerful voice on the subject of artificial intelligence. On July 17th, NPR reported that he had addressed the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, telling the governors that AI poses a "fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization."
Strong words – with which I agree.
Musk told the governors that AI calls for precautionary, proactive government intervention: "I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late," he said.
He was clearly not thrilled to make that argument, calling regulation generally "not fun" and "irksome," but he said that in the case of AI, the risks are too high to allow AI to develop unfettered.
Back in 2014, Musk likened AI developers to people summoning demons they think they can control. In 2015, he signed a letter warning of the risk of an AI arms race.
Critics argue that Musk is interested less in saving the world than in buffing his brand. I don't buy that - I think his fear is genuine.
Some of the governors expressed skepticism about the wisdom of regulating a technology that's still in development. Musk said the first step would be for the government to gain "insight" into the actual status of current research. "Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid," Musk said. "As they should be."
I think the skeptics need to watch The Terminator and iRobot again.
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