Back in June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk told CNBC that he'd invested in a company called Vicarious that is developing products and services based on artificial intelligence. But that wasn't why Musk got interested. His impetus for backing the firm was instead "to keep an eye on" unforeseen terrifying scenarios where the products began to threaten humanity.
He doesn't appear to have been exaggerating.
In a Tweet last night, Musk said this:
Worth reading Superintelligence by Bostrom. We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 3, 2014
Bostrom is Nick Bostrom, the founder of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. That group recently partnered with a new group at Cambridge, the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, to study how things like nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence and other innovations could someday wipe us all out, according to PCPro:
At [a] conference, Bostrom was asked if we should be scared by new technology. "Yes," he said, "but scared about the right things. There are huge existential threats, these are threats to the very survival of life on Earth, from machine intelligence – not the way it is today, but if we achieve this sort of super-intelligence in the future," Bostrom said.
"Superintelligence" is set to be published in English next month. In a blurb, Bostrom's colleague Martin Rees of Cambridge says of the work, "Those disposed to dismiss an 'AI takeover' as science fiction may think again after reading this original and well-argued book."
In our recent profile of Vicarious, the firm backed by Musk, we talked to Bruno Olshausen, a Berkeley professor and one of the firm's advisors. He said we are still way too far behind in our understanding of how the brain works to be able to create something that could turn heel.
"Absent a major paradigm shift - something unforeseeable at present - I would not say we are at the point where we should truly be worried about AI going out of control," he told us.
So at a minimum, it sounds like the robot takeover is not imminent.
But it seems like it's something all of us should "keep an eye on."