Elon Musk: Artificial Intelligence Could Delete Humans Like Spam

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity founder Elon Musk renewed his warning about the development of artificial intelligence Wednesday night at Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit, where he likened human extinction by AI to deleting spam.

“I don’t think most people understand just how quickly machine intelligence is advancing,” Musk told Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson during an on-stage interview. Isaacson is the award winning author behind Steve Jobs’ official biography, the former managing editor of Time and the former chairman and CEO of CNN.

“It’s much faster than almost anyone realizes even within Silicon Valley, and certainly outside Silicon Valley. People really have no idea… Particularly if it’s engaged in recursive self-improvement, if there’s some digital super-intelligence, and its optimization or utility function is something that’s detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect,” Musk said.

According to the entrepreneur, if the AI believes an impeding function — like junk email — is caused by humans and curbing its maximum efficiency, it could elect to wipe out humanity as the most logical solution for self-improvement.

“It could be just something like getting rid of spam email… and it concludes, ‘Well the best way to get rid of spam is to get rid of humans.”

Though Musk’s comments elicited a chuckle from Isaacson and the audience, Musk takes the prospect of a malevolent AI very seriously. Earlier this year the noted tech entrepreneur revealed he had invested in Silicon Valley companies engaged in developing AI not for profit, but to track their progress.

“I mean, there have been movies about this, you know, like ‘Terminator,'” Musk said. (RELATED: Elon Musk: Artificial Intelligence Could Create ‘Terminator’)


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Giuseppe Macri