Entrepreneurs

9 of the most jaw-dropping things Elon Musk said about robots and AI in 2017

Elon Musk
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Elon Musk

Elon Musk has become a de facto leading voice about the potential of robotics and artificial, machine learning — and he has issued both cool predictions and scary ones. So as 2018 draws near, here are some of his most notable comments from 2017.

The good

1. Your self-driving car will automatically take you where you want to go

In October, a Twitter user suggested to Musk that he would love to be able to get in his car and just tell it where to drive him.

According to Musk, it will be even better than that: "it won't even need to ask you most of the time," tweeted the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.

2. There's no reason your Tesla won't be able to fly in the future

"It's certainly possible" that the next generation high-end Tesla Roadster, which Musk announced in November, will be able to fly for "short hops," said Musk via Twitter.

The four-seater, high-performance electric vehicle, due out in 2020, will be able to go 250 miles per hour. The first run of 1,000 Roadsters will cost $250,000 each.

The base model will go from zero to 100 kilometers per hour in 1.9 seconds, according to Musk, and "there will be a special option package that takes it to the next level."

3. Robots will move so fast you need a strobe light to see them

In response to a Twitter post of a humanoid robot made by Boston Robotics jumping onto raised surfaces with the caption, "we dead," Musk responded with a warning.

"This is nothing. In a few years, that bot will move so fast you'll need a strobe light to see it. Sweet dreams…"

The bad

4. Robots will do everything better than us

"There certainly will be job disruption. Because what's going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us. ... I mean all of us," said Musk, speaking to the National Governors Association in July. "Yeah, I am not sure exactly what to do about this. This is really the scariest problem to me, I will tell you."

Transportation operators will be the first to lose their jobs, says Musk. (According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, one in seven jobs in the U.S. is transportation-related.) But no job is safe, he says.

"Transport will be one of the first to go fully autonomous. But when I say everything — the robots will be able to do everything, bar nothing."

The scary

5. The global arms race for AI will cause World War III

Global competition to be the country with the most sophisticated AI will be the cause of the next world war, Musk predicts. His comment was responding to a story about Russian president Vladimir Putin predicting the country winning in artificial intelligence "will be the ruler of the world."

6. AI is a greater risk than North Korea

Musk posted the warning with a photo of a poster that read "in the end, the machines will win."

7. "AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization."

"I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it," Musk said at the National Governors Association. "AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization in a way that car accidents, airplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not — they were harmful to a set of individuals within society, of course, but they were not harmful to society as a whole."

According to Musk, an essential part of the solution is proactive and immediate regulatory oversight. "AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation than be reactive," he says. Musk has also co-founded nonprofit Open AI to help.

8. Governments will force companies to turn over AI tech at gunpoint

During a September Twitter tirade by Musk on the existential threat posed by artificial intelligence, a follower suggested that the government lags behind and corporations will develop the most threatening arsenal of artificial intelligence.

But according to Musk, "[Governments] don't need to follow normal laws. They will obtain AI developed by companies at gunpoint, if necessary," he tweeted.

9. "AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity." And read this book

"AI will be the best or worst thing ever for humanity," says the billionaire entrepreneur. He also recommends a book on the subject: "Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence" by MIT professor Max Tegmark. Musk says the book is "worth reading."

It's worth noting that some of Musk's most dire predictions have elicited criticism from prominent tech leaders. Notably, Facebook billionaire CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Musk's doomsday predictions "pretty irresponsible."

"I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic," says Zuckerberg. "I think you can build things and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic. And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible," he says.

And Google's head of AI, John Giannandrea, objected "to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt SF in September. "I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

See also:

Ahead of Elon Musk, this self-made millionaire already launched a company to merge your brain with computers

What it's like being an intern at Elon Musk's Tesla and SpaceX

Elon Musk: Robots will take your jobs, government will have to pay your wage