Have a laptop in your study? Toting a cellphone or iPad in your pocket? Be afraid — be very afraid.
Invoking chilling reminders of "The Terminator" and "2001: A Space Odyssey," in which super-smart rogue computers decide to end humanity's existence, Tesla and SpaceX billionaire founder Elon Musk, arguably one of the brightest guys on the planet, envisions a terrifying future when supercomputers, equipped with hyper-advanced artificial intelligence (AI), could delete all human life as if it were just annoying spam.
"I don't think anyone realizes how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing. Particularly if involved in recursive self-improvement ... and its utility function is something that's detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect," Musk, speaking at Vanity Fair's New Establishment Summit
in San Francisco, said.
"If it is just something like getting rid of email spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans …" Musk, 43, said, as the audience laughed nervously.
It's not the first time Musk has voiced this concern.
In August, he tweeted, "We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes," CNET reported
. He added in an interview, "I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is potentially a dangerous outcome there."
Nor is Musk alone in his apocalyptic nightmares. World-renowned mathematician and genius physicist Stephen Hawking told comedian John Oliver on "Last Week Tonight" that: "Artificial intelligence could be a real danger in the not-too-distant future."
Hawking expressed concerns that an AI system could "design improvements to itself and outsmart us all."
Oliver asked facetiously, "But why should I not be excited about fighting a robot?"
Hawking responded simply, "You would lose."
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Musk told CNBC
, "There have been movies about this, you know, like 'The Terminator.' There are some scary outcomes. And we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad.
"In the movie 'Terminator,' they didn't create AI to, they didn't expect, you know, some sort of Terminator-like outcome. It is sort of like the Monty Python thing. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition."
Musk's space tech company, SpaceX, is designing vehicles which could carry missions to Mars and back again, and he has expressed a desire to retire on Mars, leading the interviewer, Aspen Institute's Walter Isaacson, to ask whether Musk's focus on space travel is an effort to outrun and escape the killer AI machines.
Musk replied: "No — more likely than not that if there's some apocalypse scenario. It may follow people from Earth," CNET reported.
When asked, "Do you think you maybe read too much science fiction?" Musk replied, "Yes, that's possible. Probably."
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