In a documentary by American filmmaker Chris Paine, billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk warned that artificial intelligence “doesn’t have to be evil to destroy humanity.”
Elon Musk has a seemingly infinite number of thoughts regarding the future of humanity, and he is more than willing to speculate. In Paine’s documentary, Musk discusses the potential for an artificial superintelligence beyond our means of control:
The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world. At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape.
The documentary references everything from “fake news” bots to The Matrix, pulling from both real-world and popular culture examples to shape a vision of the future in which the human race has created something for which they were not prepared. The antidote, then, is that very preparation. But what do you do to thwart something created and functioning with even the best of intentions?
“If AI has a goal and humanity just happens to be in the way, it will destroy humanity as a matter of course without even thinking about it. No hard feelings,” Musk theorized. “It’s just like, if we’re building a road and an anthill just happens to be in the way, we don’t hate ants, we’re just building a road, and so, goodbye anthill.”
Musk’s Neuralink was created with the intent to merge humans and AI to keep us from too easily becoming irrelevant in a world populated by machines that can behave as we do but think in dimensions of complexity of which our natural biology is incapable. Others seek to regulate the advancement of the technology itself, ensuring that intelligent autonomous weapons do not march on the gates of mankind. Right now, robots loom large in the world’s consciousness. Only time will tell whether Musk’s vision for a cyborg future will pave the way for humanity to keep up, or merely introduce a new potential dystopia.