Elon Musk Warns of 'Civilizational Risk' from Unregulated AI

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) could pose a “civilizational risk” to humanity if the technology continues to be developed without independent oversight, Elon Musk warned on Wednesday. He was addressing US senators at a tech leaders’ summit in Washington DC.

Speaking to reporters as he left the US Capitol following the three-hour ‘AI safety forum’ – which also featured Bill Gates, Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg, and Alphabet’s Sundar Pichai – Musk stressed that there is an “overwhelming consensus” among tech giants to rein in AI technology, adding that a failure to do so could lead to “severe” consequences.

“The question is really one of civilizational risk,” Musk said, according to NBC News. “It’s not like one group of humans versus another. It’s like, hey, this is something that’s potentially risky for all humans everywhere.” The billionaire added his belief that there is an “above zero” chance “that AI will kill us all.” 

AI language models, colloquially known as ‘chat bots’, became popularized last year with the public release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. The technology is capable of answering questions or composing complex passages of prose in human-like language. Critics have warned that some of the information AI chat bots present to users can be wildly inaccurate.

It has also led to concerns about mass layoffs in employment sectors that could be replaced by AI, as well as increased online fraud and misinformation.

“I think if this technology goes wrong, it can go quite wrong,” OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, the developer of ChatGPT, said. “We want to be vocal about that. We want to work with the government to prevent that from happening.” 

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, who convened the meeting, described the discussion as “historic.” He stated that there had been a unanimous call for regulation, but that no agreement had been reached on how this should be applied.

The introduction of an independent agency to oversee the pace of AI development was among the topics discussed at the forum, The Guardian reported on Thursday, as were methods on ensuring transparency in Big Tech companies.

However, Republican Senator Mike Rounds said following the meeting that the US Congress is currently “absolutely not” in a position to propose legislation to govern artificial intelligence, while outspoken GOP lawmaker Josh Hawley refused to attend what he called a “giant cocktail party for Big Tech.”


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