Elon Musk made headlines over the weekend with comments calling for government controls around artificial intelligence, which he has said repeatedly he believes is an existential threat to humanity if left unchecked. Musk was at the International Space Station R&D conference today, and during a fireside chat explained more about his views on the matter in response to an audience member question.
Musk clarified that he envisions a government agency forming first and seeking to gain insight into AI and its use at first, without any kind of attempt to regulate by “shooting from the hip.” Some took his comments at the National Governors Association meeting on Saturday regarding a need for “proactive regulation” as a call for regulation to put be put in place now or in the immediate future.
Instead, Musk said he thinks the process of seeking the insight required to put in place informed rules about the use and development of AI should start now. Musk compared it to the process of establishing other government bodies regulating use of technology in industry, including the FCC and the FAA. “I don’t think anyone wants the FAA to go away,” he said, explaining why he believes it’s important to explore AI regulation despite admitting that as an entrepreneur, he often finds regulation frustrating.
The Tesla CEO also explained a bit more about why he’s so attuned to the potential threat of AI, using the example of DeepMind’s AlphaGo, and its ability to defeat all human opponents many years faster than most expert observers predicted. He also pointed to the forthcoming development of AI-specific processing units, which stand to improve AI performance by an order of magnitude over current GPU-powered version.
“It’s going to be a real big deal, and it’s going to come on like a tidal wave,” he said.