Nov 18, 2014

Elon Musk on Artificial Intelligence: “We;re Summoning the Demon”

This is by far the most interesting story of the last two weeks.  When someone with the knowledge and financing of Elon Musk makes a statement like this, I start looking around the corner for the Terminator....


Elon Musk is in the news again, though this time it’s not in reference to his space activities or new-fangled cars, but rather, in reference to his thoughts on the possibilities and implications of artificial intelligence. Consider this report from The Sydney Morning Herald (kindly shared by Mr. S.D.):
We are ‘summoning the demon’ with AI: technologist Elon Musk
Here’s the heart of it:
“In an hour-long interview for MIT, which held its Centennial Symposium last week, Musk opened himself up to the audience for questions. Most of the questions were about space travel, but one audience member asked Musk for his thoughts on artificial intelligence, and that’s when things got a bit spooky.
“‘I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence,’ said Musk, the expression on his face suddenly turning very serious. ‘If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. 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.’
“Sounds reasonable. Prudent even. A generally conservative approach to a potential technological issue facing our world in the future. Wise words.
“But then…
“‘With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon,” said Musk. “In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like, ‘Yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon.’ Doesn’t work out.’
“Forget Tony Stark, the comic book character most often associated with Musk, it may be time to start thinking Doctor Strange. Pentagram? Really, Elon?”
Despite the rather sneering tone of the Sydney Morning Herald in the last line quoted above, and the implicit materialist cosmology that it possibly disguises, Musk may have a point.

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