Elon Musk warns AI is “outside of human control”

To say Tesla and SpaceX icon Elon Musk is never far from the public eye is like saying Alex Jones is unpopular online —it’s a huge understatement. From his social media outbursts to his wild beliefs, he seems to have an opinion on anything. Musk’s strong opinions on artificial intelligence are already well-known, but recent comments have doubled down on his prophetic vision of a dangerous AI future.

In a recent episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Musk spoke with host Joe Rogan on a range of topics, including AI particularly, he described his fear that AI “will be used as a weapon […] the danger is going to be more ‘humans using it against each other’”. Since scientists are already developing AI for these means, his fears are justified.

Musk described his attempts to convince lawmakers to regulate the growth of AI “I tried to convince people to slow down […] to regulate the AI. This was futile. I tried for years. Nobody listened,” stating that he had visited Obama and the U.S. Congress to speak to them about the matter. Several companies have internal rules for AI, but so far there is little legal ground against the technology.

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Later in the conversation he describes why regulation now is important by describing the timely regulatory process: “[U]sually there’ll be something, some new technology, it’ll cause damage or death, there will be an outcry. There will be an investigation. Years will pass. There’ll be some sort of insight committee, there’ll be rulemaking. Then there will be oversight, eventually regulations. This all takes many years. This is the normal course of things.[sic]” He compares this elongated legislature process to that of car safety features, which the US car industry fought for several decades before they were legally required.

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Yet he doesn’t want AI to reach the level of danger that will require legislation “you can’t take ten years from the point at which it’s dangerous. It’s too late.”

Musk’s prophetic views on AI aren’t all doom and gloom. In the interview he also discusses Neuralink, a company he co-founded to create a human-AI interface, and the hopeful future it promises “best case scenario, we effectively merge with AI, where AI serves as a tertiary cognition area.” Musk describes the relationship between humans and their phones as a primitive example of this; they’re used to store your memories and compute your problems as “an extension of you”.

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Musk promised announcements on this front soon “I think we’ll have something interesting to announce in a few months. That’s at least an order of magnitude better than anything else, better than anyone thinks is possible.”

These remarks on AI in the interview have been overshadowed by Musk smoking weed, boasting about sales of his flamethrower, and seemingly admitting to being an alien in the same interview. However, his optimistic view of the way humans could harness AI is an important antithesis to the usual sombre remarks made on the matter.

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