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Elon Musk: 'We are summoning the demon' with artificial intelligence

While he believes smart machines can take us to Mars and drive our cars for us, Musk remains worried that artificial intelligence holds a darker potential.

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Eric Mack Contributing Editor
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Eric Mack
2 min read

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Musk says this guy could be the least of our fears. Video screenshot of "Far Cry 3" by CNET Australia

Elon Musk, a chief advocate of cars smart enough to park and drive themselves, continues to escalate his spooky speech when it comes to the next level of computation -- the malicious potential of artificial intelligence continues to freak him out.

"With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon," Musk said last week at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial Symposium. "You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he's like... yeah, he's sure he can control the demon, [but] it doesn't work out."

This has become a recurring theme in Musk's public comments, and each time he warns of the AI bogeyman it seems even more dire.

In June, Musk raised the specter of the " Terminator" franchise, saying that he invests in companies working on artificial intelligence just to be able to keep an eye on the technology. In August, he reiterated his concerns in a tweet, writing that AI is "potentially more dangerous than nukes." Just a few weeks ago, Musk half-joked on a different stage that a future AI system tasked with eliminating spam might decide that the best way to accomplish this task is to eliminate humans.

But this is the first time I'm aware of that Musk has kicked up the rhetoric another notch -- perhaps anticipating this week's onslaught of Halloween costumes -- to compare AI to something supernatural like demons.

How to deal with the demonic forces of AI in the future? In a strange move for a tech mogul, Musk suggests it might be a good idea to fight one bogeyman with another (depending on your political perspective) in the form of government regulators.

"If I were to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that," he said, referring to artificial intelligence. "I'm increasingly inclined to 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."

Indeed. Who knows what demonic hellscape could emerge if we ever let artificially intelligent machines get ahold of a Ouija board. Watch Musk's comments for yourself in the video below.