Why SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes artificial intelligence must be regulated by government

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Two days after sparking a national debate over perceived threats from artificial intelligence, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reiterated Wednesday that machine-learning technologies are advancing at a staggering rate and should be regulated.

But the billionaire entrepreneur isn’t asking for extreme regulation — just the same level of government oversight now given to aircraft, cars, drugs and other industries, he said.

Computers’ abilities to reason, make complex judgments and learn will increase exponentially, by “10 orders of magnitude a year,” Musk said at the annual International Space Station Research and Development Conference in Washington, D.C.

“I think the role of government is to make sure the public is safe, to take care of safety issues,” Musk said during his keynote address. “I think the right move is to establish government regulatory agencies.”

Musk, whose Hawthorne-based SpaceX is building a fleet of reusable, affordable rockets, shocked the business community with his call for regulation that would likely bring added manufacturing and development costs.

“It’s difficult to appreciate just how far AI has advanced and is advancing,” Musk said. “When you have a double exponential, it’s very difficult to predict and almost always too conservative.”

Ron Kurjanowicz, who procures new technologies as chief of staff for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, criticized Musk’s motives.

“I don’t agree with Elon,” Kurjanowicz said Tuesday. “I think Elon has other purposes in mind. Everything will be cognified, but it won’t be cognified independently. It’s much more about human-machine partnerships as they build user communities with AI.”

Kurjanowicz was responding to Musk’s comments Monday, before the National Governors Association, that artificial-intelligence technology poses “a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

Musk himself has an artificial-intelligence company called Neuralink that aims to develop computing devices that can be implanted into human brains. He also helped found a nonprofit research group, OpenAI, to address regulatory concerns.

“The reason I wanted to create Neuralink was primarily to offset the existential risk of AI,” Musk said Wednesday. “I think we will not be able to beat AI. Having AI be an extension of human will is really the point of Neuralink.”

Turning to the business he knows most about, space exploration, Musk addressed his long-term goal of developing heavy-lift rockets that can deliver large numbers of people to Mars for colonization.

“I think there’s a pretty big social or civilizational benefit to being a multiplanet civilization,” Musk said. “It dramatically increases the life span of human civilization if we’re multiplanetary.”

But he added that it may not be the hottest ticket around for everybody.

“Going to Mars is not for the faint of heart. It’s risky, dangerous, uncomfortable, and you might die,” Musk said. “Now do you want to go? For a lot of people, the answer is going to be ‘hell no.’ For some, it’s going to be ‘hell yes.’ ”



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