by Joseph Callanan, Public Communication/CDAE major at the University of Vermont.
On July 17, 2017, Elon Musk, owner of Tesla and CEO of SpaceX, spoke on the future of technology and the potential dangers it could pose on the human race – “Summoning the Beast.” Summoning the Beast refers to the inevitable shift in technology driven by the power of artificial intelligence – a rapid evolution that is coming upon the human race. Google defines Artificial Intelligence as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” “We just don’t know whats going to happen once there is an intelligence substantially greater than that of a human brain” (Musk CNN, 2017). Musk emphasizes the fact that artificial intelligence will far surpass the intelligence of the human brain, and is afraid that this will pose a deep threat to the human race.
Musk’s main fear spur from the threat of artificial intelligence or “AI.” He is concerned for the day that AI passes human intelligence, and that AI can pose several different threats to the human race on many different levels. “The benign scenario is that AI can perform any task that a human could perform, only better.” (Musk CNN, 2017). However, darker possibilities exist. Musk fears that if a “beast” scenario becomes a reality, humans will become irrelevant in everyday tasks with no purpose to serve, and we will become inferior to robots and other forms of AI. He predicts that once AI surpasses the human intelligence, it will accelerate exponentially, and soon after, the understanding of the AI world will be close to impossible. In order to avoid these many threats, Musk proposed that we must integrate the human brain with technology through a merger with AI.
While AI can be seen as a scientific breakthrough, it is clearly seen as a threat to the human race. In another interview with Musk by CNBC, Musk says, “I worry that humans may be the biological boot loader for digital superintelligence.” Hes donated millions of dollars in research to keep the progression of AI positive for the Human race. Bill Gate touched upon the topic in an interview with CNBC and disagrees with Musk’s concerns on the topic of AI. “The so-called control problem that Elon is worried about isn’t something that people should feel is imminent, we shouldn’t panic about it”. (Gates CNBC, 2017). Gates feels as though it will be easy to control and will help the human race rather than harm it. AI can be seen as a great scientific breakthrough, but poses a great potential threat on the human race. With thorough research and a cautionary approach, this “beast” can be tamed and used as a beneficiary to the human race rather than a threat.