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Elon Musk warns of AI bogeyman: 'We are summoning the demon'

27 October 2014, 10:30 am EDT By Nicole Arce Tech Times
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Artificial intelligence is the demon. That’s what Elon Musk, CEO of innovative electric car maker Tesla and SpaceX space exploration company, says when asked about the future of robots and AI.   ( Dick Thomas Johnson )

Elon Musk, a staunch supporter of self-driving cars and revolutionary space programs, has always been vocal about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

At the recent Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit held in San Francisco earlier this month, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO told Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson that technology designed to think, reason and solve problems like humans, or better than humans, have the potential to be "very bad" for society.

"I don't think anyone realizes how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing," he said at that time. "Particularly if [the machine] is involved in recursive self-improvement... and its utility function is something that's detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect."

But the Tesla chief, frequently compared to Ironman's Tony Stark, have more spooky things to say about AI. Last June, Musk said in an interview with CNBC that the AI landscape could eventually become a real-life "Terminator" movie, where the potential for "scary outcomes" is hugely possible and humans should continue working to make these outcomes beneficial for human beings. Musk also said at that time that he invests in companies working on AI, such as the AI startup DeepMind, which was eventually acquired by Google.

Musk again expressed his concerns about AI taking over the world in a tweet he made last August, where he recommended the New York Times bestseller "Superintelligence" by Nick Bostrom and warned that AI could be worse than a nuclear war.

Until now, Musk's remarks about the specter of robots taking over humanity has sounded reasonable to most people, but even the most prudent ears could hardly believe Musk's latest comments about the budding technology. At last week's Centennial Symposium at the MIT's Aeronautics and Astronautics Department, where Musk was invited to speak in front of students, Musk kicks up his AI-is-the-devil prose into high gear, calling AI the "biggest existential threat" to human beings.

"With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon," he says. "You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon - it doesn't work out."

Whether this AI bogeyman rhetoric is the result of Halloween being just around the corner or a reflection of Musk's real concern against rogue robots taking over the world, the real-life Tony Stark suggests that government regulators oversee the rapid development of AI.

"I'm increasingly inclined to think 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 says.

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