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Elon Musk Warns “AI is Far More Dangerous than Nukes” at SXSW

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Jay Syrmopoulos
Jay Syrmopoulos is a geopolitical analyst, freethinker, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs and holds a BA in International Relations. Jay's writing has been featured on both mainstream and independent media - and has been viewed tens of millions of times.

Austin, TX – Speaking at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festival on March 11, billionaire polymath pioneer Elon Musk warned “AI is far more dangerous than nukes” regarding the dangers associated with the rapidly developing field of artificial intelligence (AI). “I’m very close to the cutting edge in AI and it scares the hell out of me,” Musk told the crowd.

“Narrow AI is not a species-level risk. It will result in dislocation… lost jobs… better weaponry and that sort of thing. It is not a fundamental, species-level risk, but digital super-intelligence is,” Musk told the audience in Austin.

“I think the danger of AI is much bigger than the danger of nuclear warheads by a lot,” Musk said. “Nobody would suggest we allow the world to just build nuclear warheads if they want, that would be insane. And mark my words: AI is far more dangerous than nukes.”

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Musk made clear that he believes the rapid advancements in artificial intelligence are outpacing any potential regulation of the technology, thus creating a dangerous paradigm and a need for regulation.

“I’m not normally an advocate of regulation and oversight,” Musk said. “There needs to be a public body that has insight and oversight to confirm that everyone is developing AI safely.”

Musk highlighted the case of Google’s AlphaGo, AI-powered software that can play the ancient Chinese board game Go— reputedly the world’s most demanding strategy game— as evidence of exponential learning capacity of machines. In early 2017, AlphaGo clinched a decisive victory over the top Go player in the world.

While some AI experts dismiss such fears, downplaying potential threats posed by artificial intelligence to humanity, Musk believes these “experts” are falling victim to their own delusions of intellectual superiority over machines, calling their thought process “fundamentally flawed.”

“The biggest issue I have with AI experts… is that they think they’re smarter than they are. This tends to plague smart people,” says Musk. “They’re defining themselves by their intelligence… and they don’t like the idea that a machine could be smarter than them, so they discount the idea. And that’s fundamentally flawed.”

During his SXSW talk Musk also discussed the possibility of another coming of the Dark Ages and a colony on Mars as a “hedge” against civilizational collapse on Earth.

“I think it’s unlikely that we won’t have another world war again… there probably will be at some point,” Musk said. “[So] there’s likely to be another Dark Ages,” Musk said. “Particularly if there’s a Third World War… [And] we want to make sure that there’s enough of a seed of human civilization somewhere else so that we can bring civilization back and shorten the length of the dark ages.”

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