Elon Musk: "Until People See Robots Going Down the Street Killing People, They Don't Know How to React"
It's a science fiction trope as old as the genre itself: humans create incredible robots, those incredible robots rise up against their human creators, chaos ensues. It's the basis for Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics". And, to many, this scenario is just that—a sci-fi nightmare. But as artificially intelligent robots continue to advance, there are many who question how worried we really need to be. Is there the real potential for an AI uprising? Elon Musk thinks so.
Musk thinks that before this become a reality, governments should prepare by creating AI regulations now. Musk boldly stated on July 15th at the National Governors Association summer meeting, "I have exposure to the very cutting-edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned about it...I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don't know how to react, because it seems so ethereal."
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He has a point. Most people are not directly involved in the creation and development of AI technology, and, as a result, might view it as less potent than it actually is. But he has a second point as well: while the phrase "robots going down the street killing people" is extreme and a bit jarring, we cannot wait until issues arise with AI to begin regulating. Musk isn't alone in his prediction--world renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking has recently been extremely vocal about his concerns regarding AI. He isn't focused on their potential for violence, but rather their potential to supersede humankind and make us obsolete. Hawking has said:
This isn't an exaggerated claim, either, as Google engineers have already built an AI capable of creating AIs better than humans can. Additionally creepy, there is now an AI that is able to generate videos of humans on its own, leaving the one watching to wonder what is even real anymore. As Bill Gates' has said previously: "I don't understand why some people are not concerned."
You don't wait until you're in the middle of a car crash to get auto insurance; so we wouldn't want to wait until there's a potential robot uprising to create any type of regulation. There are AI that can create art, help with your taxes, and even diagnose cancer. Still, it is difficult to say where we might draw the line. In fact, it is not even yet clear as to what "true AI" really is. Either way, AI will forever remain a double edged sword. While it could save countless lives with self-driving cars, it also has the ability to replace human jobs, putting thousands out of work and making entire careers obsolete.
Musk isn't wrong—regulation is obviously necessary. But while experts like Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking discuss the potentially disastrous future of AI tech and how to legislate a safety net, the field continues to rush forward regardless.