Elon Musk launches $1bn fund to save world from destruction by artificial intelligence. Tech titans join forces to fund research into artificial intelligence that has a positive social impact – amid dire warnings that rapid, unexpected advances could kill off humankind.
By Rob Crilly
Elon Musk has unveiled his latest big-money project: saving humanity from destruction by artificial intelligence.
The man who made his billions from PayPal and who has gambled a chunk of his fortune on the race for space, has warned frequently that AI represents humanity’s greatest existential threat. He is joining forces with other tech entrepreneurs to establish a $1 billion investment fund for researchers to pursue applications with a positive social impact and to try to stay one step ahead of the technology.
“Because of AI’s surprising history, it’s hard to predict when human-level AI might come within reach,” they said in a statement. “When it does, it’ll be important to have a leading research institution which can prioritise a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.”
The statement is a reflection of the debate within the science and technology worlds about the threats and benefits offered by rapid advances in computer intelligence, and whether legislative safeguards – or even a total moratorium on research – are needed.
The idea of super-intelligent computers that become so indispensable to human life they eventually make us redundant and take over has moved from the pages of science fiction to scientific journals. Eventually AI systems communicating among themselves could control entire transport networks and national economies.
Last year Prof Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist, told the BBC that the technology could spell the end of human race.
He warned of a technology that could “re-design itself at an ever increasing rate” outpacing human advances.
Speaking at a symposium held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Mr Musk described the dangers of AI.
“If I were to guess what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful with the artificial intelligence,” he said. “With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon.”
Along with his Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel, and backing from Indian tech giant Infosys and Amazon Web Services, he has set up OpenAI, a nonprofit company that will back research into novel uses of AI and share the findings.
The aim is to ensure that someone is looking at the pros and cons – free from the financial constraints of research and development departments at the likes of Google or IBM that have spent billions of dollars on research.
“Since our research is free from financial obligations, we can better focus on a positive human impact. We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely,” said the founders of OpenAI on its website.