Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has already gone on record discussing the potential risks of artificial intelligence, and now he is putting his money where his mouth is. The inventor and entrepreneur is donating $10 million to help fund research to "keep AI beneficial" to humanity and prevent it from going the way of Skynet from the Terminator franchise.
"It seems very obvious to be that humans should attempt to make the future of humanity good," Musk, the chief executive of electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. and the chairman of residential solar-power installer SolarCity Corp. SCTY, said in a video posted on the institute's website. "It is best to prepare for, to try to prevent a negative circumstance from occurring, than to wait for it to occur and then be reactive."
It's not clear whether humanity would be able to recover should artificial intelligence turn against it and in some scenarios humanity doesn't, Musk says.
The funds will go to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), an organization run by volunteers and dedicated to research aimed at "mitigating existential risks facing humanity," and specifically those risks related to the ongoing march towards artificial intelligence.
Musk offered a statement with the announcement, noting that he is in agreement with a long list of prominent AI researchers who have signed an open letter calling for this type of research.
"Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important" Musk says. "I agree with them, so I'm today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity."
The FLI will distribute the funds donated by Musk to relevant research projects, with some of the money making its way to participants in an open grants competition beginning on Monday, January 19 to help select projects that focus on AI-specialist researchers. In addition, the money will be used to fund research in ethics, law, economics and other areas that feature AI-related components.
The threat of artificial intelligence has seemed like a concern relegated to science fiction movies, but as technology advances, the threat could potentially come to a point where humanity can no longer deny it. The ethics and law surrounding AI and how we apply the technology is something that indeed needs to be discussed now before we are caught unprepared.
The fact that Musk is not only talking about it, but also funding the research while at the same time espousing technological progress for the benefit of mankind, is refreshing to many in the industry. And it will be interesting to see what results his investment will bring to this area of research.