When Terminator gave us an apocalyptic vision of a future ruled by robots, we reached for the popcorn. When The Matrix modernised it, we considered buying trench coats. But when Elon Musk - the man behind the award-winning Telsa electric car and the company that's making commercial space missions a success - voices concerns that intelligent computers pose a serious threat to the future of humanity, it's time to start eyeing up the power plug.
Speaking on the stage of Vanity Fair’s New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX caused ripples of nervous laughter to fill the room when he opened up on his fears concerning the future of super-intelligent AI.
"I don't think most people understand how quickly artificial intelligence is advancing. It's much faster than almost anyone realises, even within Silicon Valley," said Musk.
Asked by Walter Isaacson why this was dangerous, Musk replied "If there's a super intelligent machine is - particularly if it's engaged in recursive self-improvement... and its optimisation or utility function is something that’s detrimental to humanity, then it will have a very bad effect.
"If its [function] is just something like getting rid of spam e-mail and it determines the best way of getting rid of spam is getting rid of humans..."
He went on to suggest that he doesn't think the problem will be solved by his long-standing desire to retire on Mars. "No - more likely than not that if there’s some... apocalypse scenario, it may follow people from Earth," said Musk.
While it's not quite time to start smashing up your smart devices, we're going to be keeping a crowbar by our desks from now on.
[Via: Vanity Fair]