Startup News & Analysis

Elon Musk continues to warn of AI threat, claiming it will become an “immortal dictator”

Dominic Powell /

Not only does millionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk have his fingers in a lot of different startup pies, he also has a lot of something else: opinions.

It’s well documented that Musk loves to share these opinions, however weird, through Twitter, sometimes going so far as to get into fights with various members of the public over city planning and the merits of public transport (he’s not a fan).

But every now and then Musk will express some of his better thought-out opinions through a different platform, such as via an interview or at a conference. This time, he was interviewed for a short documentary called Do You Trust This Computer? Given its name, you may have guessed the topic was the future of artificial intelligence.

Musk’s view on AI is well-documented; he called the tech one of the “most troubling” and “dangerous” in 2017, and warned researchers and developers to “not get carried away” with what they were building.

However, this time round, Musk was more critical, having just told listeners at the annual SXSW festival in a Terminator-esque scenario that AI may be responsible for World War III. But in the documentary, CNBC reports Musk kicked it up a notch, labelling AI an “immortal dictator”.

“The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratised AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital super-intelligence, they could take over the world,” Musk said.

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.”

He backed this up by clarifying that AI does not have to be evil to destroy humanity, painting a fairly bleak future for autonomous systems.

“If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk said.

“It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants, we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.”

NOW READ: Elon Musk pivots Hyperloop project towards public transport, effectively creating … a train

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Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany.

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