Why Elon Musk Thinks Robots Are A Threat to Humanity

The tech mogul had strong words about AI.

Elon Musk is known for his progressive notions of a future enhanced by technology: humans on Mars, autonomous cars, etc. But Musk’s view of artificial intelligence in the near future is decidedly less sunny. This past weekend, he called AI a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization,” Recode reports.

Musk spoke at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island on July 15th, calling on the government to take proactive— “instead of reactive,” he said—precautions around AI. To Musk, this means establishing regulations around AI, noting “by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

Right now, AI seems a distant threat, according to Musk. “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said. That's why he says we need to start planning now, as it’s inevitable AI will be part of our future. (Musk uses a great analogy for how ubiquitous autonomous cars will be in 20 years, for example, saying that not having one would be like using a horse to get around today.)

Of course, Musk isn’t alone in his concerns about the future of AI, and for many, this includes the fear of losing their jobs to robots. AI isn’t all bad—the skill and speed at which it can crunch numbers could make a lot of jobs, like roles in medicine and engineering, more accurate and efficient. But just as utilizing the skills robots can’t learn—like emotional intelligence— will be essential to staying useful in the age of AI, collaborating with other humans about how to best deal with the threats AI poses is the smartest strategy for moving forward.

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