And he thinks that the world will become an increasingly “weird and unstable” place when humans are no longer the most intelligent entities on the planet.
Speaking to the New York Times this week, the SpaceX founder said: “We’re headed toward a situation where AI is vastly smarter than humans.
“I think that time frame is less than five years from now.
“But that doesn’t mean that everything goes to hell in five years,” he added. “It just means that things get unstable or weird.”
Musk, who is also behind AI-powered self-driving cars, has repeatedly warned that the rise of artificial intelligence will result in drastic changes for society.
In a speech in 2014, he described AI as an “existential threat” to humanity and compared trying to build a self-aware machine to “summoning the demon.”
He said: “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I were to guess like what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that.
He said it was important that governments should establish some sort of ground rules for AI researchers: “scientists think there should be some regulatory oversight maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.
“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it’s like ‘yeah he’s sure he can control the demon’. Didn’t work out.”
Musk says his partner Grimes, who he affectionately calls “c” which is the scientific term for the speed of light, is as worried about AI today as he was in 2010.
He said “c has gotten quite worried about A.I. in the last few weeks. I think GPT-3” [a neural net that can write text and even computer code as well as a human] “has caused her to become quite concerned. And I’m like, ‘Welcome to me circa 10 years ago.’”
Musk says that the biggest problem with true AI will be that it won’t be very interesting in humanity: “I think generally, people underestimate the capability of AI,” he told Wired.
“They sort of think like, it’s a smart human. But it’s, it’s really much—it’s going to be much more than that. It’ll be much smarter than the smartest human. It’ll be like, can a chimpanzee really understand humans?
To chimps, he said, humans “just seem like strange aliens. They mostly just care about other chimpanzees.”
He has warned that AI could easily cause a third world war, tweeting: “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea.”
“In the end,” he added, “the machines will win.”
“Mark my words,” he warned in 2018 “ AI is far more dangerous than nukes. Far. So why do we have no regulatory oversight? This is insane.”