It may seem really far fetched but Tesla billionaire Elon Musk says we won't see the robot threat coming...until they're killing us in the streets
It may seem really far fetched but Tesla billionaire Elon Musk says we won't see the robot threat coming...until they're killing us in the streets Paramount Pictures

Billionaire's dire warning about AI research

MACHINES imbued with general intelligence and self learning pose a "fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation".

That's the message delivered by Silicon Valley Billionaire Elon Musk to a group of US politicians on the weekend.

The CEO of Tesla Motors and Space X met with a group of US politicians to discuss laws around electric autonomous vehicles but also told them they need to act to ensure we avoid welcoming killer robots into the world.

"Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don't know how to react because it seems so ethereal," he said about the tech sector's furious pursuit of artificial intelligence.

"AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it's too late."

Elon Musk has been sounding the alarm on AI general intelligence for years and believes government regulation could struggle to keep pace with rapidly advancing AI research.

"Normally the way regulations are set up is a while bunch of bad things happen, there's a public outcry, and after many years a regulatory agency is set up to regulate that industry," he said. "It takes forever.

"That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilisation."

Last month it was revealed that AI-powered Facebook bots designed to negotiate with one another created their own non-human language to communicate in.

Because there was no reward for sticking to English, the bot-to-bot conversation "led to divergence from human language as the agents developed their own language for negotiating," a report from Facebook said.

While it appeared to be mostly gibberish it was an interesting discovery that given the freedom, the machine learning algorithm sought to effectively create a robotic shorthand.

The researchers ultimately required its bots to only speak in English however depending on the desired outcome, the alternative would likely be more efficient. The trade-off is that we, as humanity, would have no clue what those machines were actually saying to one another which raises the question: do we want to be able to eavesdrop on what our machines are saying?

The Facebook example is by no means the first glimpse of singularity. But ostensibly, this is the kind of thing Musk wants politicians to be thinking seriously about.

The point of his meeting with US governors was to reiterate his long-held argument that proactive regulation is needed to protect humanity from being outsmarted by computers, or "deep intelligence in the network" that can start wars by manipulating information, the Associated Press reported.

Pressed for more specific guidance by Colorado Govenor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Arizona Govenor Doug Ducey, a Republican, Musk said the first step is for government to get a better understanding of the fast-moving achievements in developing artificial intelligence technology.

"Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be," Musk said.