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Elon Musk: Artificial intelligence may spark World War III

CNET logo CNET 9/4/2017 Eric Mack
Tesla Motors, screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow © Provided by CNET Tesla Motors, screenshot by Antuan Goodwin/Roadshow


While many nervous eyes around the world are watching rogue nation North Korea and its latest nuclear test, billionaire worry-wart Elon Musk warns that an international artificial intelligence race is more likely to cause World War III than a 20th century-style arms race. 

"China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo," the Tesla Motors and SpaceX CEO tweeted early Monday.

The doomy, gloomy prognosticating apparently came in response to reports out of Russia that President Vladimir Putin is also looped in on AI's geopolitical potential.

"Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world," Putin told Russian students via satellite, RT reported.

Putin didn't leave it on such a super-villain-sounding note though, adding: "If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today."

Wait, so is that where North Korea got their... Oh, never mind.

Musk elaborated his concerns further on Twitter, which are less about what governments possess strong AI first and more about decisions that an AI could make on behalf of a government or military to spark world war.

"May be initiated not by the country leaders, but one of the AI's, if it decides that a prepemptive strike is most probable path to victory," he wrote.

Musk has been warning of the dangers of unfettered AI for years . Last month, he joined over 100 AI experts in calling on the United Nations to ban robotic weapons

Musk believes so much in the threat of AI that he has a side project, Neuralink, which aims to create a computer-brain interface in order to help keep humans more competitive in the face of emerging AI.

In August, Musk also specifically tweeted that artificial intelligence poses "vastly more risk than North Korea."

Even as the isolated country ups the ante with its nuclear program, Musk is clearly more concerned with the emergence of killer robots. Let's just hope North Korea doesn't start sharing videos of its new deep learning system that plays a mean game of chess.

If that ever emerges, it's almost certain Musk will never sleep again. That is, if he actually sleeps at all now. 

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