Our least famous doomsday scenario could be much closer to unfolding than we’d like to think. Like Stephen Hawking and many other prominent scientists, inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk warns that artificial intelligence might be a double-edged sword.
Last year, Musk expressed his concern multiple times, saying that we should be careful with AI, considering that it is “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
AI can and will change the future of mankind. Depending on how we play our cards, the world of tomorrow could see a lot of humanity’s problems being solved by robotic minds. But if things go wrong we might end up being treated like a problem, spelling the end of mankind’s reign on Earth.
The first computers of the 20th century had the computational power of a single bacterium. Fifty years later, there are already supercomputers that outmatch the brain of a mouse. If the evolution of AI keeps its pace, Moore’s Law predicts that it will reach the processing power of a human brain as early as 2026, after which it will quickly surpass it by levels of magnitude.
It takes very little effort to connect the dots and realize that AI could easily overpower us if it wanted to. So it all boils down to one question: would we be able to constrain something much smarter than us? During last year’s AeroAstro Symposium, Musk said:
With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like yeah he’s sure he can control the demon. Didn’t work out.”
Google is currently working on an artificial neural system capable of thought. IBM’s Watson supercomputer is learning. Facebook, Yahoo and all the other major players are investing in AI. In Musk’s opinion that constitutes reason for concern:
Increasingly scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish,” he added.
In January, he made a $10 million donation to the Future of Life Institute, an organization dedicated to keeping AI “beneficial to humanity.”
Consensus of opinion is hard to reach in the matter of artificial intelligence and despite its expected benefits, many of the world’s brightest minds have expressed their apprehension.
Are we on the high road to opening Pandora’s Box? What do you think?