Stephen Hawking once told the BBC, “I think the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” Elon Musk, a larger-than-life figure who risks where most don’t dare, could not agree more. Both tech luminaries have been warning people about AI for years.
Musk’s views on the dangers of A.I. first went viral after he spoke at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2014 that A.I. was probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” During an interview at MIT's AeroAstro Centennial Symposium, talking about computer science, AI, space exploration and the colonisation of Mars he said:
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful.” He went on: “I’m increasingly inclined to think that 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.”
He also told Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance, the author of the biography Elon Musk, that he was afraid that Larry Page, co-founder of Google could have perfectly good intentions but still “produce something evil by accident”—including, possibly, “a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.”
Earlier this month Musk gave a speech at the US National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island where called for premptive regulation surrounding AI before there is no turning back describing it as the "biggest risk we face as a civilization."
“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said according to tech website Recode. “AI is a 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’s too late.”
“Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he continued. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”
The tech billionaire, who's already leading space exploration projects and major tunneling initiatives, is not against AI as long as we manage to keep it beneficial.
In January 2015 Musk donated US$10 million to the Future of Life Institute to run a global research program aimed at keeping artificial intelligence beneficial to humanity. In December 2015 he co-founded Open AI, a non-profit AI research company “discovering and enacting the path to safe artificial general intelligence."
Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk backed 23 principles to avoide an AI apocalypse. The principles are known as the Asilomar AI Principles because they were developed at the Asilomar conference venue in California and you can read them here.
Musk was born in 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. At age 10, he developed an interest in computing and taught himself computer programming. At age 12, he made his first software sale—of a game he created called Blastar. At age 17, he moved to Canada but he left in 1992 to study at the University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in economics and a bachelor’s degree in physics.
In 1995, he moved to California to begin a PhD in applied physics and materials science at Stanford University, but left the program after two days to pursue his entrepreneurial aspirations in the areas of the Internet, renewable energy and outer space.
Musk became a multimillionaire in his late 20s when he sold his web software company, Zip2, to a division of Compaq Computers. Zip2 developed and marketed an Internet "city guide" providing content for the new websites of both The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Compaq acquired Zip2 for US$307 million in cash and US$34 million in stock options.
Musk achieved more success by founding X.com an online financial services and e-mail payment company in 1999, One year later, the company merged with Confinity, which had a money transfer service called PayPal.
In 2002 Musk founded SpaceX,a company that designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, with the goal of reducing space transportation costs and enabling the colonization of Mars. In 2012, SpaceX was the first private company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Musk founded Tesla Motors in 2003, a company dedicated to producing affordable, mass-market electric cars. In 2016 Tesla acquired Solar City, the largest solar panel installer in the U.S. In April 2017, it was announced that Tesla had surpassed General Motors to become the most valuable U.S. car maker.
Last year Musk has also started Neuralink, a company that intends to build devices to connect the human brain with computer software.The serial entrepreneur and inventor continues his work in attempting to make his innovative ideas a reality but remains cautious in order to make sure technology is used in ways it serves the human welfare and will not create irreparable damages in the future.