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Here’s how Elon Musk is stopping AI from killing us all


Elon Musk
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Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has never been shy about his belief that artificial intelligence is the forerunner to humanity’s downfall.

Fortunately for the likeminded, Musk has invested millions into the Future of Life Institute (FLI), which looks to put a stopper on evil AI.

The FLI has now announced that it’s issuing grants to nearly 40 research teams, which all hope to battle AI in different ways.

Three projects will work to create AI systems that learn what humans do and don’t like through observation, courtesy of Oxford University and US Berkeley.

Then there’s a project at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute that wants to examine how to keep “superintelligent systems aligned with human values”.

Other attempts to control AI include making systems explain their decisions to humans, understanding how to keep the economic impacts of AI beneficial, how to keep AI-driven weapons under “meaningful human control”, and a project that researches AI-relevant legislation.

Around $7 million will be doled out to the research teams, much of which comes courtesy of Musk’s investments.

Related: 9 creepy ways robots are replacing humans

Late last year, Musk waxed lyrical on AI, comparing progress in the sector to “summoning the demon”.

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

But are we really all about to be wiped out by robots? Probably not, at least according to FLI president Max Tegmark.

The danger with the Terminator scenario isn’t that it will happen, but that it distracts from the real issuesposed by future AI,” says Tegmark.

He continues: “We’re staying focused, and the 37 teams supported by today’s grants should help solve such real issues.”


July 4, 2015, 10:10 pm

So AI research is bad, right? So he's funding loads more AI research? Does he think that the people already working on AI weapons systems haven't considered how to keep them under human control?

I wonder if his tirade against AI was just a smokescreen.


July 5, 2015, 10:03 am

when hard ai becomes a reality, your going to be wanting an organization that had already thought up the systems to make the asimov robot laws to work...... elon musk thinks of the future. though i doubt he will make a financial return on this. it's more of a charity to the human benefit :/ sad you don't see that.

and oh we definitely should not place ai in charge of nukes. the terminator movie proved why thats a bad idea :p


July 5, 2015, 12:00 pm

The point is, that stuff was already being covered. Also some of the research topics have nothing to do with saving us from future robotic overlords.

Elon is a very smart guy, and perhaps he's set himself up as our saviour so even those against AI research will support *him* doing AI research in order to save us from the *other* AI research.


July 6, 2015, 8:43 am

I think it's more about what the primary focus of research is; AI research thus far has been focused on improving the capabilities of AI. While the weapon AI almost certainly has had the issue of control high up on its agenda that will not have been the primary focus of the research.

It seems likely that in future AI development will be much like other programming in that different pre-developed modules will be brought in for standard functionality.

The advantage of what Musk is doing here is that he is concentrating on the morality/safety/control aspect particularly that so that the imposition of values and controls on AI will not take a backseat to other considerations
That way, when new AI is developed to, for instance, run a power plant, the plug in 'morality modules' will not be some kind of underdeveloped afterthought, but a tested reliable part of the AI.

The sooner this work is done, the sooner this functionality is available to whomever needs it.

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