Elon Musk Still Worried About A.I.: Let's Not "Do Something Really Dumb"

The Tesla founder returned to a favorite topic during the company's earnings call.

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Elon Musk is a big believer in going to Mars, building Hyperloops, and making cars electric, but there’s one aspect of the future he’s deeply skeptical about: artificial intelligence. The Tesla and SpaceX founder made headlines last month while discussing the dangers of A.I. at a meeting of America’s governors, even launching a small spat with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over the dangers the technology represents.

Musk returned to the subject during Tesla’s earnings call Wednesday when a representative from Deutsche Bank joked about asking him whether electric vehicles or A.I. is trickier. While promising not to derail the situation, Musk tried to clarify just what he thought about artificial intelligence, and how he felt reports have misrepresented his concerns.

“It’s just something that I think anything that represents a risk to the public deserves at least insight from the government, because one of the mandates of the government is the public wellbeing,” he said. “Insight is different from oversight. At least if the government can gain insight to understand what’s going on and then decide what rules are appropriate to ensure public safety, that is what I’m advocating for.”

This is where it’s worth remembering the context of Musk’s most recent comments about A.I. He was addressing the National Governors Association, exactly the people Musk feels should be thinking critically about artificial intelligence before it becomes part of all aspects of daily life.

Anything Musk says publicly is likely to be picked up widely — as evidenced by this article you’re reading right now — so it’s not exactly unreasonable that Musk’s reservations to policymakers could be read as a broader call for people to turn on A.I. But he insisted that’s not the case.

“I’m not advocating we stop development of A.I. or any of the straw man hyperbole things that have been written,” he said. “I do think there are many great benefits to A.I., we just need to make sure that they are indeed benefits and we don’t do something really dumb.”

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