Elon Musk Warns Governors “AI is Fundamental Risk to Civilization”

Speaking to more than thirty of the nation’s governors on Saturday, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk quieted the room with this warning: “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

Musk was speaking as part of a panel with Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval at the National Governors Association meeting in Providence, Rhode Island about a variety of topics, but his comments on artificial intelligence were the most striking amid questions about renewable energy, how to get people to care about NASA, self-driving cars, and technology regulation.

“On the artificial intelligence front, I have exposure the very, most cutting-edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk told Sandoval. “I keep sounding the alarm bell but until people see like, robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.”

Musk said “we should be really concerned about AI” and that the emerging technology presents a rare case where government should be proactive in regulation instead of reactive to industry.

“By the time we’re reactive in AI, regulation’s too late,” he said. “Normally, the way regulation’s set up, a whole bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and then after many years, a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry. There’s a bunch of opposition from companies who don’t like being told what to do by regulators and it takes forever. That in the past has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.”

Musk said car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs, and bad food are merely harmful to certain parts of the society, but AI would affect all of society.

“I’m against overregulation for sure, but I think we better get on that with AI,” he said, before noting later than “I really think we need government regulation here.”

Automation inside the Tesla factory.

“Robots Will…

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