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AI researchers say Elon Musk's fears 'not completely crazy'

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 30, 2014
Artificial intelligence researchers have own worries about intelligent systems.

Artificial Intelligence
Credit: gengiskanhg/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

High-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk made headlines when he said artificial intelligence research is a danger to humanity, but researchers from some of the top U.S. universities say he's not so far off the mark.

"At first I was surprised and then I thought, 'this is not completely crazy,' " said Andrew Moore, dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. "I actually do think this is a valid concern and it's really an interesting one. It's a remote, far future danger but sometime we're going to have to think about it. If we're at all close to building these super-intelligent, powerful machines, we should absolutely stop and figure out what we're doing."

Musk, most well-known as the CEO of electric car maker Tesla Motors, and CEO and co-founder of SpaceX , caused a stir after he told an audience at an MIT symposium that artificial intelligence (AI), and research into it, poses a threat to humans.

"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence," Musk said when answering a question about the state of AI. "If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that... With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. In all those stories with the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, and he's sure he can control the demon. It doesn't work out."

He added that there should be regulatory oversight -- at the national and international level -- to "make sure we don't do something very foolish."

Musk's comments came after he tweeted in early August that AI is "potentially more dangerous than nukes."

His comments brought images of movies like The Terminator and Battlestar Galactica to mind. The science-fiction robots, stronger and more adaptable than humans, threw off their human-imposed shackles and turned on people.

The statements come from the man who founded Tesla Motors, a company that has developed an Autopilot feature for its dual-motor Model S sedan. The Autopilot software is designed to enable the car to steer to stay within a lane and manage speed by reading road signs.

Analysts and scientists disagree on whether this is artificial intelligence. Some say it's not quite AI technology but is a step in that direction, while others say the autonomy aspect of it goes into the AI bucket.

Last month, Musk, along with Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and actor and entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher, teamed to make a $40 million investment in Vicarious FPC, a company that claims to be building the next generation of AI algorithms.


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