Speaking at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, Rhode Island this week, Musk spoke to a group of Democratic and Republican governors, urging them to take proactive action to prepare for the rise of AI. Specifically, he argued that the possible negative effects of AI on human society can’t necessarily be legislated away after they’ve already begun. Instead it requires preemptive regulations and restrictions for the safety of humankind.
“AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation, instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late,” Must said, via CNet. “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization, in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, or bad food were not.”
A big part of Musk’s concern is that AI systems could spark needless wars by way of “fake news” and information manipulation, a vision not that far from what fans of The Terminator film franchise have had bouncing through their heads for the last few decades.
Elon Musk told a whole bunch of U.S. governors yesterday to regulate AI. That's a big deal. https://t.co/89bJZVN8nb— Rabbi Steven Burg (@stevenburg) July 16, 2017
But Musk fervently believes this is a real threat, not something isolated to the realms of science fiction. And while he believes that the general public doesn’t have adequate appreciation for the scale of the threat just yet, he thinks that will change in due time.
“Once there is awareness,” Musk said, “people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.”
This is far from the first time the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has made dire public warnings about the threats associated with artificial intelligence. In 2014, he cautioned about the perils of rapid AI advancement in a speech to students at MIT. Said Musk then:
I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So, we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. I’m increasingly inclined to think there should be some regulatory oversight at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know, in all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, and he’s like yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.
He’s been joined in these concerns by other prominent thinkers in the world of tech and science, namely Microsoft founder Bill Gates and world-renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.