Artificial Intelligence

Is AI a fundamental threat to human civilisation?

21st July 2017
Alice Matthews

According to Tesla and Space X chief executive Elon Musk, artificial intelligence is the “biggest risk we face as a civilisation” and needs to be proactively regulated before it’s too late. Speaking at a meeting of US governors, Musk said: “Normally the way regulations are set up is when a bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry. It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

Unlike many technology bosses, Musk has repeatedly warned that AI is one of the most pressing threats to the survival of the human race, and that his investments into its development were made with the intention of keeping an eye on its development.

Musk has set up a $1bn (£770m) research company to try and promote safe AI development. He told the meeting that “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation,” and stressed that “once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.”

While Musk has been repeatedly vocal in regards to his AI concerns, this meeting seemed to hit home with follow-up questions looking for suggestions for how to go about regulating AI’s development. Musk recommended that the first stage would be to “learn as much as possible” to better understand the problem.

Electric and driverless cars were also discussed, with Musk suggesting that in 20 years owning a non-autonomous car intended for travel would be considered strange. A car with a steering wheel may become similar to owning a horse; a hobby rather than a serious mode of transport.

While Musk’s comments do raise a certain amount of fear and questions in the tech community, his words came just days before we reported that a security robot drowned itself in Washington DC.

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