Sure, Elon Musk wants to make science fiction reality by building a city on Mars. But when it comes to other sci-fi scenarios — namely, a robot apocalypse — the founder of Tesla and SpaceX is much less optimistic.
Musk revealed his fear of a robot uprising during an interview on CNBC on Tuesday while answering questions about his investment in an artificial intelligence research company called Vicarious.
Vicarious describes its mission as creating "human-level intelligence in vision, language, and motor control", and is seen as being at the forefront of artificial intelligence research. "
I like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence," said Musk on the reasoning behind his investment in the company. "I think there is a potentially dangerous outcome thereI like to just keep an eye on what's going on with artificial intelligence," said Musk on the reasoning behind his investment in the company. "I think there is a potentially dangerous outcome there."
When pressed on what he means by "dangerous," Musk said: "There have been movies about this, you know, likeTerminator."
That's right; the man currently working with NASA on space missions and outfitting the planet with the leading electric car is referencing a movie series about time-traveling cyborgs and a future war between humans and machines.
In the robot-powered doomsday film, a computer system called Skynet becomes self-aware and begins waging war on humanity. This leads to humanoid robots who track down and kill people.
"In the movie, Terminator, they didn't expect, you know some sort of Terminator-like outcome," continued Musk.
Still, Musk's sentiments match an increasingly serious approach to the notion that self-aware computers could one day impact the fate of humanity. Although milestones such as computerspassing the Turing Test are hailed as accomplishments in the field, fears of "the singularity" — the moment when artificial intelligence starts to improve itself without our help — are increasingly represented in mainstream pop culture and even in academia.
So while the Terminator scenario may sound unrealistic, by investing in Vicarious, Musk is placing his bet that artificial intelligence overtaking human intelligence will be a very real concern in the future.
Other well-known investors in Vicarious include Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, as well as a number of other high-profile technology investors.
But in the realm of future tech, Musk stands out from the crowd as someone who not only envisions the future but invents it. So laugh Musk's concern off if you must — but keep in mind that this guy actually knows a thing or two about the future of technology.
"There are some scary outcomes," said Musk during the television appearance, "and we should try to make sure the outcome are good, not bad."