Artificial intelligence is the “biggest risk we face as a civilisation” and needs to be checked as soon as possible, Elon Musk has warned. The billionaire technology entrepreneur behind Tesla and SpaceX said there is a risk that “until people see robots go down the street killing people they don’t know how to react”. “AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we’re reactive in AI regulation it’s too late,” he told a meeting of US governors. “Normally the way regulations are set up is a whole bunch of bad things happen, there’s a public outcry and then after many years the regulatory agencies set up to regulate that industry. “That in the past has been bad but not something that represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of civilisation in a way that car accidents, aeroplane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harmful to a set of individuals but they were not harmful to society as a whole.” Unlike many technology bosses, Musk has been a vocal AI sceptic, warning that the potential consequences could outweigh benefits like self-driving cars. He has repeatedly warned of its dangers, and set up a $1 billion (£770M) research company to try and promote safe development of AI. In quotes | Elon Musk Some AI experts have criticised Musk’s position, saying he is warning of a highly unlikely scenario that is grounded more in science fiction films than in reality, although Musk’s concerns have been shared by scientists including Stephen Hawking. “For sure the companies doing AI – most of them, not mine – will squawk and say this is really going to stop innovation,” Musk said. “Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.” Speaking about driverless cars, Musk said that in 20 years, owning a car with a steering wheel will become like owning a horse – a hobby rather than a serious mode of transport. AI timeline
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