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Elon Musk

Elon Musk is terrified of AI and thinks you should be too

Elon Musk

Stuart Thomas: Senior Reporter
Stuart Thomas joined the Burn Media team in 2011 while finishing off an MA in South African Literature. Eager to prove his geek credentials, he allowed himself... More

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Just because Elon Musk is determined to change the way we build cars, and travel to space, and power our houses, doesn’t mean he embraces every piece of technology that crosses his desk. Take artificial intelligence for instance. While some can’t wait to have all their thinking done for them, Musk thinks the technology could be more dangerous than nuclear bombs.

The SpaceX founder took to Twitter over the weekend to deliver a mini-rant about the potential dangers of artificial intelligence.

Thing is, Musk wouldn’t have been able to disrupt the industries he has if he was part of the paranoid tin-foil-hat brigade and his fears appear to be grounded in some fairly thorough research:


The text Musk is referring to here is Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence, which asks what happens when machines surpass humans in general intelligence.

Right now, it says, we have an advantage over machine intelligence and can make the first move to protect ourselves from it. If we fail to do that however it may well overtake us and become powerful beyond our control. If that were to be the case, then we could end up in a similar position to gorillas currently find themselves in: dependent on human action for their survival.

The innovator and businessman also made reference to James Barrat’s Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era:


The book profiles a number of leading figures in the tech space to ask whether we’ll be able to compete with a superior intelligence which will inevitably have similar survival instincts to our own.

Musk seems to think not, figuring that unless a drastic change happens now we’re destined to be reduced to a secondary role in history.


Whether AI develops as quickly as these pessimistic predictions suggest is undoubtedly questionable. The rise of Artificial Intelligence is however something that we’re going to have find increasingly nuanced ways of dealing with, otherwise we could well find ourselves in a position where we’re not the ones controlling the off switch.