Stephen Hawking, the Internet’s second-favorite astrophysicist after Neil deGrasse Tyson, made waves this spring when his essay about the double-edged nature of artificial intelligence prompted arguments about whether robots would be enslaving us. Now, in a statement bound to gin up twice as much controversy among computer science geeks, Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has likened AI development to “summoning the demon.”
But hey, maybe Musk was just getting into the Halloween spirit when fielding an audience question at the MIT AeroAstro Centennial Symposium last week. You can skip to 1 hour, 7 minutes and 20 seconds into the video to hear his grave answer or read the transcript below.
Q. In view of its potential to be possibly the biggest gamechanger ever, do you have any plans to enter the field of artificial intelligence, and in general, what are your thoughts on it? Do you think it’s even close to being ready for primetime?
Musk: I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence. I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know 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? Doesn’t work out.
Q: So I’ll take it there’ll be no HAL 9000 going to Mars?
Musk: HAL 9000 would be easy. It’s way more complex … it’d put HAL 9000 to shame. That’s like a puppy dog.
So now we’re all on the same page: Get your cursed amulets, hooded robes, and blood chalices ready for this Friday—we’re going out to the woods behind school to contact Skynet.