Elon Musk Makes Self-Driving Machines — Yet Fears A Possible Robot Takeover

(REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Elon Musk’s new master plan to produce a fleet of fully self-driving vehicles and autonomous technology flies in the face of the techno-luminary’s self-described fear of a robot takeover.

Musk’s grand plan to merge solar panel producer SolarCity and Tesla includes producing a giant, self-controlled machine that builds the machines that the electric vehicle maker produces — in effect, the plan is to turn Tesla’s factories into a product themselves.

The so-called master plan, which was announced Wednesday in a blog post on the Tesla website, involves creating fully autonomous technology, which will allow customers to let their computer overlords take control of the steering wheel.

Customers will also be able to use their Tesla fully-self driving vehicles as a type of Uber rider sharing, money making product — a person’s Tesla can generate income while they’re at work or on vacation simply by tapping a Tesla app; this, according to Musk, could help dramatically lower the full cost of a Tesla.

Musk’s plan to produce what amounts to a self-perpetuating technology appears to run counter to his campaign against artificial intelligence.

He used his wealth and cache as a leading figure in technological innovations, for instance, to fund a nonprofit company called Open AI, which seeks to create artificial intelligence that will not eliminate humanity.

“Our goal is to advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return,” Open AI stated on its website.

The driving force behind Tesla and SolarCity was one of a number of technologists and scientists like physicist Stephen Hawking to launch a $1 billion pledge last year to make robots that won’t hurt people. Neither Musk nor Hawking have explained the distinction between a positive autonomous robotic being and one that could possibly hurt people.

The inconsistency has created fodder for technology groups.

One group, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), foisted its annual Luddite Award honor on various groups of technologists and scientists critical of artificial intelligence in January, but aimed the bulk of its scorn at Hawking and Musk for their past comments criticizing autonomous technology.

The term Luddite refers to a group of 19th century workers who traveled about Europe destroying cotton mills and lumber mills, claiming the new technology would destroy the world.

“It is deeply unfortunate that luminaries such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking have contributed to feverish hand-wringing about a looming artificial intelligence apocalypse,” ITIF President Robert D. Atkinson noted in a statement.

The ITIF, for its part, called Musk an “alarmist” for shoveling massive amounts of money into campaigns preventing the proliferation of autonomous robots. The group also lambasted Tesla’s CEO and his ilk for stoking fear about an upcoming artificial intelligence revolution.

“Neo-Luddites no longer wield sledgehammers, but they wield something much more powerful: bad ideas,” ITIF wrote on its website in December, referring to people like Musk who worry about autonomous robots. “For they work to convince policymakers and the public that innovation is the cause, not the solution to some of our biggest social and economic challenges, and therefore something to be thwarted.”

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