Some of the greatest minds of our time -- Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Elon Musk -- fear that artificially intelligent robots will one day rise up and usurp the human race. AI machines will become smarter than us, they warn. When they are, we’ll either make great pets or be exterminated like bugs. That is if we don’t outsmart them first.
No, they’re not kidding. And, yes, they possess the intellectual “ credentials to back up the distress.”
Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, Musk leans toward the worst-case scenario here, speculating that AI bots could be mankind’s “biggest existential threat,” “potentially more dangerous than nukes.” The CEO of SpaceX and Tesla -- the real-life inspiration for Tony Stark -- isn’t just alerting the masses to a future we might not be part of by merely flapping his gums. He’s putting his mega money where his outspoken mouth is.
Last January, the eccentric billionaire inventor-entrepreneur donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), a volunteer-run organization “working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity.” Now funds from Musk’s investment are being used to research just how ugly it could potentially get for us if AI turns into the “ demon” he says it could be and, hopefully lucky for us, how we can prevent a Terminator-like future. Pretty dark stuff, eh?
The FLI announced yesterday that it’s awarding $7 million in grants, including a reported $6 million bump from Musk, to 37 AI-focused research teams. The researchers are basically tasked with “keeping robots from murdering you,” as The Verge mildly puts it. Yeah, no pressure. Power to the people.