Elon Musk was the keynote speaker at the National Governors Association conference in Providence, Rhode Island, last weekend. He used the occasion to remind the group of his oft voiced concerns about artificial intelligence, calling it the “biggest risk we face as a civilization.” In the absence of appropriate government regulations, Musk fears AI could progress to the point where homicidal robots roam the cities of the world, making them even more dangerous than Chicago.
Homicidal Robots & AI
“Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. “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.”
Elon clarified that thoughtfully regulating human threats before disasters occur could have been helpful in other instances, but AI presents a whole other level of concern.
“Normally, the way regulations are set up is that while a bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry,” he noted. “It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”
Musk told the governmental nabobs that part of his desire to establish interplanetary colonies on Mars is to have a Plan B for human society once AI-infused robots take over the earth. The governors were intrigued by Musk’s rather forthright remarks and peppered him with questions about how to deal with challenges presented by regulating artificial intelligence. “The first order of business would be to try to learn as much as possible, to understand the nature of the issues,” he said. He highlighted that AI recently defeated humans at the game “Go,” a feat once thought to be virtually impossible.
Fleetwide Hack Of Autonomous Cars
Electric cars were also part of the conversation, with Musk telling the governors the biggest risk from autonomous cars is a “fleet-wide hack” of the software that controls them. As the last US election and recent cyberattacks like the WannaCry virus have made abundantly clear, any digital device or database connected to the internet is vulnerable to attack from nefarious people bent on mischief.
In 2015, an airliner was deliberately flown into the French Alps by a mentally deranged pilot, killing everyone on board. Afterwards, people asked why the airlines could not take over control of an airplane digitally while in flight to prevent such disasters. The answer was that such a system was indeed possible but never implemented because of the danger that blackhat hackers could take over an airplane in flight and cause it to crash. Musk fears just such a thing could potentially happen to self-driving cars … or entire fleets of self-driving cars.
Musk added that in 20 years, owning a car that doesn’t drive itself will be the equivalent of someone today owning a horse. “There will be people that will have non-autonomous cars, like people have horses,” he said. “It just would be unusual to use that as a mode of transport.”
Watch Elon’s remarks in the video below, beginning at the 43 minute mark.
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