Man at His Best

Elon Musk Warns That Robots Might Kill Us All

Does he know something we don't?

BY Sarah Rense | Jul 21, 2017 | Technology

Image by David McNew/AFP/Getty Images

Elon Musk is not terrified by the prospect of shooting people 750 m.p.h. across the desert in an airless tube. He isn't scared to cross bold new frontiers in space travel. He made a brave cameo appearance on The Big Bang Theory. But he is pretty shaken up by technological growth in artificial intelligence.

"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 said at a U.S. National Governors Association meeting this weekend. "AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation." Good!—could always use more of those.

Musk has long argued that artificial intelligence, the kind with some sort of learning conscious—think of sci-fi pop culture where a robot gets too smart for its own good, with Westworld and Terminator the shining examples—will become a danger before the government gets its shit together to figure out how to regulate it. That technology might not exist until we're dead. But think of it like climate change: It's floating in the background, freaking a few informed people out, but because its most disastrous effects haven't yet hit, no one's doing much about it. (And the federal government thinks science is fiction.)

Back to robots: Musk argued for proactive measures, and suggested the governors "learn as much as possible" about AI, all before "it's too late." On the bright side, The Guardian reports that some of the governors expressed interest in regulation, asking relevant follow-up questions. But on the doom-and-gloom side, Musk also 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." Given how useless our powers-that-be are with handling science, technology, or threats to citizens, he's probably right.

From: Esquire US


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