Elon Musk Never Anticipated the Threat of Dangerous AI on Earth Extending to Mars


Screenshot: Tesla

For at least the last decade, Elon Musk has been obsessed with the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence. Almost as obsessed as he is with escaping the shackles of Earth to live on Mars. According to reports from the time, Musk was afraid that artificial general intelligence was going to advance to a point that it would take over humanity as the dominant species on this planet, and that was one of the primary reasons he saw as a reason for leaving to expand human culture on Mars. There’s just one flaw in that plan. If AI is smarter than humanity, could it not just make its own way to Mars?

Musk’s obsession with controlling artificial intelligence stemmed from this very question, according to a report from the New York Times on the history of OpenAI. DeepMind AI founder Demis Hassabis was on a tour of Musk’s SpaceX facility shortly after the two had met at a conference in 2012.

The NYT retelling of the story is short and sweet. Musk was explaining to Hassabis that his plan to colonize Mars was an effort to “…escape overpopulation and other dangers on Earth.” Hassabis, seeking the billionaire’s investment in DeepMind, then replied that his plan “…would work — so long as super-intelligent machines didn’t follow and destroy humanity on Mars, too.”

This thought hadn’t crossed Elon’s mind, and he was allegedly rendered speechless. Shortly afterward, he invested heavily in DeepMind alongside trusted friend Peter Thiel. Musk’s plan then was to be more involved in the creation of AI so that he could help shape it and control its future. His fear of advanced AI taking over humanity became so great that he felt the need to push its creation.

That’s the thing about travel; even if it’s as far as Mars, going somewhere new won’t help you feel better about yourself. If you’re afraid where you are, and then you get on a starship to Mars, you’ll still be the same scared you, just in a new place. Sorry Elon, Mars won’t fix you.

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