Is artificial intelligence becoming dangerous?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Elon Musk
Elon Musk (on the right) works very closely with some of the most high-tech machines on the planet, so his concerns with artificial intelligence are definitely worth listening to.

What do physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and futurist Elon Musk have in common? I mean, besides being as brilliant as Tony Stark. They all want to ban killer robots, which they fear may one day turn on us as quickly as Skynet in the Terminator!

Science-fiction movies like Will Smith’s iRobot and Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron explore the unintended consequences of advanced artificial intelligence (AI). Since machines control everything from automobiles to nuclear power plants nowadays, they could cause serious damage if they decided to rebel against humans. While that might seem like silly story material for yet another “gadgetry run amok” Hollywood film, Musk believes it’s a serious issue.

He isn’t some wild conspiracy nut, either. Musk is the founder of rocket company SpaceX and electric car company Tesla Motors. He’s basically revolutionizing the transportation industry all the way from the city streets of America to the distant red dunes of Mars. It’s no surprise, then, that people listened closely when he brought up his AI concerns at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), during a talk for the 100th anniversary of their Aeronautics and Astronautics department last fall.

“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that,” explained Musk. “So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence. Increasingly scientists think 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 are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”

Smartphones and apps are already able to predict what kind of music we like, where we want to travel next, and what our favorite websites are, since so much of our life is interconnected online. This definitely makes life more convenient, especially because machines have already taken over tough factory production jobs and are even making self-driving cars possible. So, visionaries like Musk, Hawking, and Wozniak aren’t saying we should just scrap AI and rewind the clock on tech advances. All they want is for institutions like the government to keep an eye on tech companies that are working with AI, and for businesses to agree on certain rules and guidelines to prevent science-fiction levels of destruction. The last thing we want is some predator drone deciding that perhaps humans are the problem that need to be solved… permanently.

Featured image courtesy of Matt Broox and Marvel Comics. Image of Elon Musk courtesy of Steve Jurvetson on Flickr.