AI pen mightier than AI sword!

Monday 17th July 2017
Pens versus swords

Appearing before a meeting of the National Governor’s Association on  AI, "Fortune" reports that Tesla CEO Elon Musk described  AI (artificial intelligence)  as “the greatest risk we face as a civilisation” and he called for swift and decisive government intervention to oversee that particular technology’s development.

On the artificial intelligence front, I have access to the very most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk said (left) in a question and answer session with Nevada governor (right) Brian Sandoval.

Musk has long been vocal about the risks of AI. But his statements before the nation’s governors were notable both for their dire severity, and his forceful call for government intervention.

“AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation, instead of reactive. Because by the time we are reactive with AI regulation, it’s too late," he commented  drawing a contrast between AI and traditional targets for regulation.

“AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation, in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, or bad food were not.” Musk,  associated with so-called cyber libertarianism, a fervently anti-regulation ideology exemplified by  (below right) Peter Thiel, who co-founded Paypal with Musk.

Fortune’s technology newsletter. 
Musk argues that broad government regulation was vital because companies are currently pressured to pursue advanced AI or risk irrelevance in the marketplace: You need the regulators to come in and say, hey guys, you all need to just pause and make sure this is safe . . . You kind of need the regulators to do that for all the teams in the game. Otherwise the shareholders will be saying, why aren’t you developing AI faster? Because your competitor is.

Part of Musk’s worry stems from social destabilisation and job loss. “When I say everything, the robots will do everything, bar nothing," he said. But the bigger concern is to do with network AI,  that could be incentivised or hi-jacked to harm humans.

“[They] could start a war by doing fake news and spoofing email accounts and fake press releases, and just by manipulating information," he says. "The pen is mightier than the sword.”  Musk outlined a hypothetical situation, for instance, in which an AI could pump up defence industry investments by using hacking and disinformation to trigger a war. “I’m against overregulation for sure,” he emphasises, “But man, I think we’ve got to get on that with AI, pronto.”

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