Artificial intelligence is bigger threat to civilisation than North Korea, Elon Musk claims

The billionaire technology entrepreneur Elon Musk has suggested that artificial intelligence is a greater threat to civilisation than the North Korean regime.

In a series of tweets on Monday the chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX said that “AI superiority at national level [is the] most likely cause” of a third world war.

Musk, who has put millions of dollars into trying to ensure that AI is developed safely, regularly raises fears about AI. Along with the likes of Professor Stephen Hawking he has demanded that governments take action to halt the use of autonomous weapons.

However, many big names in the tech industry accuse him of scaremongering about a Terminator-like future and misrepresenting what AI is capable of.

“China, Russia, soon all countries [with] strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo,” Musk tweeted.

He followed up by saying a world war might begin almost by accident if machines are given the power to launch attacks, since they may judge that an early strike gives them an advantage when humans might be more cautious.

“[WW3] may be initiated not by the country leaders, but one of the AI’s, if it decides that a prepemptive [sic] strike is most probable path to victory,” he said.

Musk added that we should be more worried about addressing killer robots than Kim Jong-Un’s North Korean regime, which escalated tensions at the weekend with a new nuclear test.

Last month, Musk led more than 100 robotics and AI leaders in calling for the United Nations to take action against lethal autonomous weapons and in July said that AI was the greatest threat we face as a civilisation.

Musk’s scepticism about AI was recently criticised by Mark Zuckerberg as “pretty irresponsible”, leading to Musk firing back that the Facebook founder’s understanding of the matter was “limited”.

At a glance | Autonomous weapons

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