What do you do when the head of one of the most successful car companies in history comes to you and says that people aren’t prepared for what’s coming?
That’s what happened recently when Tesla CEO Elon Musk sat down with Chris Paine, the man behind the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? at the Tesla headquarters.
The Autopilot Problem
For more than a century, people have been proclaiming that technology is going to destroy society as we know it. But, in reality, technology has become such an ingrained part of our daily lives that it’s pretty difficult to imagine what life would be like without it. The fact is: that technology isn’t going anywhere. And as societies around the world continue to grow and develop, so too will their reliance on—and reliance on—technology. Elon Musk is one of many visionary thinkers who believes that humans could soon come face-to-face with a reality they don’t truly understand.
At a conference hosted by AllThingsD, Elon Musk said that computers would soon overtake humans in intelligence. And that when it happens, things will change very quickly for humanity.
I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence, he said. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that…with artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.
Elon Musk is trying to get people to think about what could happen if we hand control of our lives over to artificially intelligent machines. And he’s definitely not alone in his concerns. Just last month, a computer program beat Lee Sedol, one of the world’s best Go players. This is something that couldn’t have happened without AI, and many are worried about what could happen next. Will we create AI that will become more advanced than humans? Could it perhaps become dangerous and out of control?
Can humans really be sure that an intelligence greater than our own won’t ultimately result in our destruction? These are all questions people are asking, and no one can yet say for certain what life will look like as we continue to merge with technology.
The Artificial Intelligence Problem
We’re all too familiar with Moore’s Law—the rule that predicts computers will double in processing power every two years. What we might not know is that AI systems are also doubling in their ability to be better, faster, and stronger than humans. In a recent interview, Elon Musk said people need to be more aware of what artificial intelligence means for humanity. There needs to be a public debate, he said. This is going to affect our society in ways we can’t even imagine right now.
Elon Musk isn’t one to speculate about doom and gloom, but he recently stated that AI is a bigger threat than North Korea. He calls it potentially more dangerous than nukes. In fact, he believes that artificial intelligence could eventually cause a third world war because of differing opinions on how AI should be managed globally. We can either go down that road or make sure we set up guidelines for global AI use before it’s too late, he said.
Although Musk has been vocal about his concerns over AI, he’s not alone. Many other tech executives and academics also share similar views on artificial intelligence—that it’s something we should be aware of and develop carefully before it gets out of hand. Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking are two other experts who have expressed caution when it comes to AI development. They fear that we could develop AI for warfare if we don’t put safeguards in place first.
The Space Travel Problem
Of course, a great number of hurdles remain before commercial space travel becomes a reality, but Musk remains resolute. Speaking at SXSW earlier in March 2016, he warned people that they should not be thinking that it will be normal to go to space. He added: You can’t have people flying around randomly. You know there’s going to be some mayhem; somebody’s going to run into somebody and then there will be a lawsuit and then insurance companies won’t get involved. It would only set us back. It may take years for commercial space travel to become available, but we should heed Elon Musk’s warning. Something big is on its way—and we’d better be ready for it.
As scary as all of that sounds, however, it may be quite some time before we are able to board a commercial space flight. While SpaceX continues its development of a reusable rocket system—one which will help make future flights much cheaper—the company has already received more than $1 billion in contracts from NASA. However, while paying customers are on board for 2017, regular flights may not begin until 2018 or 2019. Clearly, there is still a lot of work to do before we can all start flying around space regularly! In 2014, Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the aim of helping humans colonise Mars by 2050.
It’s an ambitious goal, but many see SpaceX as well-positioned to succeed. Earlier in March 2016, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket became the first rocket to successfully land upright on solid ground during a live launch. It was a hugely important moment for both SpaceX and commercial space travel in general.
The most exciting thing is that we can fly and refly an orbital class booster which is the most expensive part of a space vehicle, said Elon Musk at a press conference after it had taken place.
How To Stop-Tech Companies From Taking Over
According to Wired, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk just fired a warning shot about technology that could theoretically allow for some frightening scenarios. Speaking at an event in Dubai, Musk warned against artificial intelligence (AI), saying it represents an existential threat to humanity. I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, nothing is going to happen. He said that governments must introduce regulations to control AI before big tech companies like Google and Facebook realize it’s too late. If AI doesn’t lead us into a dark age first…
Although most of us are accustomed to warnings about technology these days, coming from Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking among others, hearing it from someone in Silicon Valley might carry more weight. And for a specific reason: Musk is a co-founder of PayPal, CEO of Tesla Motors (TSLA), and chairman of SolarCity (SCTY). He’s also started another company called Neuralink, which is trying to merge computers with human brains. In other words, he isn’t just some armchair expert — he has skin in the game.
Musk said that AI should be regulated as soon as possible because companies like Facebook and Google have an incentive to develop AI before anyone else does. It’s not hard to imagine how things could go wrong if they succeed first. The problem is that Facebook and Google have so much data already—they don’t need new data, they need new algorithms. If one of them figures something out before everyone else, then they become supreme ruler over humanity… I keep sounding the alarm bell but until people see robots going down streets killing people, well we know there will be regulations eventually but it’ll be too late… You can regulate against AI companies acquiring each other or merging but you can’t really stop them from doing anything because they’re just AIs…
How Can We Prepare For The Future?
As our world becomes increasingly connected, many of us are feeling more and more uneasy about what’s to come. In fact, Elon Musk recently expressed his own concerns in an interview with CNBC:
I have exposure to the very cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it… In a lot of ways, AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.
What do you think? Will AI be good or bad for humanity? Will we survive? How can we prepare for future dangers like these?
The truth is that nobody knows what’s coming. AI has already advanced in ways we didn’t expect, and its applications are growing exponentially—at an ever-faster rate. It’s hard to know whether it will be good or bad for humanity in the long run. However, many experts do agree on one thing: we can expect AI to disrupt every aspect of our lives within a very short time frame. The question is how well we can adapt to these changes and if we’ll make things worse for ourselves before it gets better…
The future is completely unpredictable, but if Elon Musk is right, then now may be a good time to start preparing for any eventuality.
The good news is that we may not have to predict what’s coming or react to it once it happens. We can actually do something right now to increase our chances of surviving in a post-AI world. How? By making sure we’re familiar with AI and its applications so that we can learn how they work and, hopefully, help avoid dangerous applications in advance. If you haven’t already started learning about AI, now would be a good time!
What If He Is Right?
One of Elon Musk’s biggest fears is that artificial intelligence will take over, and in his keynote speech at SXSW he said we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes. There are a lot of other people who agree with him too, but we rarely see them together in one place.
Elon’s fears are based on a belief that AI has to be one of two things; so powerful it can’t be controlled, or so dumb that it needs humans to protect it. Either way, he believes there will come a point where we have no control over what happens next. In his words: I think if we do not address AI quickly, then we risk doing it in ways that we don’t intend. I think one of the greatest risks is that people simply become too dependent on technology. And given his regular involvement with SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity (just to name a few), Elon probably knows more about tech than just about anyone else around.
That’s why Elon is putting his money where his mouth is. He thinks by investing in AI companies today, we can ensure that they’re being built in a way that won’t be dangerous later on. If he does manage to make good on his investments and AI works out for us as we hope, then he’ll have made some really smart bets today and will probably be remembered as one of history’s great innovators. If he doesn’t…well, who knows what will happen but it might not be good.
There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation, he said. Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen. One way to look at it is that automation will put us all out of work and we need a new form of collective welfare—like an income floor. But another way to look at it is that automation will allow people to focus on bigger problems than day-to-day survival and many great thinkers (like Hawking) see AI as our best hope for finding solutions like alternative energy and colonizing other planets.
It will take time to adjust, but we’ll make it work one way or another. We always do. After all, we put a man on Mars despite all of our flaws and issues here on Earth. We have what it takes to figure things out and be resilient in such trying times. And once we do get over our current challenges, who knows? Maybe someday there will be a Mars City 2.0 or 3.0 or 4.0 which becomes more successful than Earth itself!
Just a reminder, Elon Musk is on a mission to colonize Mars and make humanity multi-planetary. It’s an ambitious goal that seems almost impossible given how much we struggle to get along on our own planet. But if anyone can do it, I believe he can. Just look at all of his other ventures and you’ll see what I mean—he’s a driven man with big ideas who turns those ideas into reality through his sheer determination and ability to execute flawlessly. If anyone can bring humans to Mars, it’ll be him, no doubt about it. The only question is: will we take Elon Musk up on his offer or not? I guess time will tell…
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