When Elon Musk announced his plans to develop a human colony on Mars, most of us accepted the project would put the ‘long’ in ‘long-term’.
The South Africa-born billionaire investor, electric car pioneer, erstwhile flamethrower-salesman and future space cowboy announced his plans just last year, with his SpaceX project already operating within an ambitious projected timeline.
Musk hopes to send a cargo mission to Mars by 2022, but his first interplanetary spaceship could be ready for its first flights much sooner than that.
As soon as next year, in fact, if his latest claims prove accurate.
During an impromptu Q&A session at SXSW, Musk laid out the timeframe for the first flights on his ship, which will not initially go as far as the Red Planet.
“We are building the first Mars, or interplanetary ship, and I think well be able to short trips, flights by first half of next year,” he said. While specifics of these ‘short trips’ are unclear, ‘not as far as Mars’ is a safe bet.
However, as reported by CNBC, he noted that “sometimes, my timelines are a little, you know…”, with his comments met with laughter.
Elsewhere in his Q&A session, Musk explained his concerns about the direction taken in the field of artificial intelligence.
He has previously described AI as the “biggest existential threat” to humanity, and Mashable reports that his SXSW speech, which follows a number of recent developments in the field, went along the same lines.
“We’re quite close to the cutting edge in AI and it scares the hell out of me,” he said, adding that “We have to figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital super intelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity.”
Musk’s comments come shortly after developments from Boston Dynamics and DeepMind which show how much progress has been made in AI circles, though his concerns long predate either of the latest announcements.