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Elon Musk: regulate AI to combat 'existential threat' before it's too late

The Guardian logo The Guardian 17/7/2017 Samuel Gibbs

elon musk at the nga: Elon Musk urges for proactive regulation of AI to help prevent the risk of the ‘existential threat’ © Reuters Elon Musk urges for proactive regulation of AI to help prevent the risk of the ‘existential threat’ Tesla and Space X chief executive Elon Musk has pushed again for the proactive regulation of artificial intelligence because “by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late”.

Speaking at the US National Governors Association summer meeting in Providence Rhode Island, Musk said: “Normally the way regulations are set up is when a bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry.

“It takes forever. That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation.”

Musk has previously stated that AI is one of the most pressing threats to the survival of the human race, and that his investments into its development were made with the intention of keeping an eye on its development.

“AI is the rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’ll be too late,” Musk told the meeting. “AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation.”

While Musk has repeatedly shared his worries over AI and its development that is seen as inevitable in some regard, words appeared to hit home with multiple governors of the 32 taking part in the meeting, with follow-up questions looking for suggestions for how to go about regulating AI’s development. Musk suggested that the first stage would be to “learn as much as possible” to better understand the problem.

Musk also talked about electric and self-driving cars, saying that at some stage having a non-autonomous vehicle intended for travel rather than recreation would be considered strange and that the biggest threat to autonomous cars would be a hack of the software to take control of a fleet of connected vehicles.

 

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