U.S. Markets open in 4 hrs 35 mins

Elon Musk Warns Against Developing Artificial Intelligence, Compares It to ‘Summoning the Demon’

Alyssa Bereznak
National Correspondent, Technology
Yahoo Tech
Elon Musk

(Associated Press)

You might say Elon Musk — the 43-year-old genius who has reimagined space travel, made cars smarter and faster, and hopes to build a high-speed rail through California — is just as afraid of technology as your average Joe.

Last week, while being interviewed at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department’s Centennial Symposium, the inventor warned against the unbridled advancement of artificial intelligence. When asked about the subject, this was Musk’s answer (you can see the entire interview in the video above):

I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that …

I’m increasingly inclined to think that 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. With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon. You know those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he’s like — yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? Doesn’t work out.” [audience laughs]

This isn’t the first time the Silicon Valley god has warned against this particular area of research. At Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit earlier this month, Musk openly discussed his concern over the speed at which artificial intelligence is progressing.

“I don’t think anyone realizes how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing,” he said in an interview with Walter Isaacson onstage. “Particularly if [the machine is] involved in recursive self-improvement … and its utility function is something that’s detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect.”

He continued with a dark warning:

“If its [function] is just something like getting rid of email spam and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans …” He trailed off as the crowd laughed.

In sum, one of the most creative and intelligent figures of our generation is seriously worried we could be hurt by the robots we create. You may begin your nervous laughter now.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her.