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Elon Musk: AI could be more dangerous than nukes

The entrepreneur has used technology to reshape payments, electric cars and space travel, but he's still really worried about what could happen if tech gets super-smart.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects, and CNET's "Living off the Grid" series Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
2 min read

A leading futurist worries about a future of super smart machines. Kevin Lynch/Disney

Elon Musk thinks solar power and electric cars are the future, and that we should get to work building humanity's second home on Mars as soon as possible. But the billionaire techno-optimist continues to speak out about what he sees as the dangers of a future filled with super-intelligent machines.

On Saturday Musk posted this tweet, recommending an upcoming book that examines such a future, adding "We need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes."

This isn't the first time Musk has voiced his apprehension about artificial intelligence, which other notable futurists like Google's Ray Kurzweil see in a much more positive, even romantic light. Back in June, Musk said on CNBC that he seriously considers the possibility of a 'Terminator"-like scenario actually coming to pass, and that he's even invested in AI companies to keep on eye on where the technology is headed.

Of course, if you read a little deeper into the writing catalog of Nick Bostrom, the author whose book Musk recommends in his tweet, you'll discover his concerns could be a moot point. Back in 2003, Bostrom published a paper arguing the odds are pretty good that we're actually living in a computer simulation, and scientists have recently begun to search for "signatures" that show our world is not quite as real as we'd like to think.

So yes, perhaps Elon, the driving force behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is right and we should be more worried about artificial intelligence, unless of course, we are also artificially intelligent. If that's the case then we need to... Hold on, I'm going to need to re-watch "Tron" and get back to you guys on this one.