Tesla CEO Elon Musk made a bold claim on Twitter over the holiday weekend: Competition for artificial intelligence superiority will most likely lead to World War III.
Musk was responding to a story tweeted by The Verge about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who thinks that the nation with leading AI technology will be the ‘ruler of the world.’
“Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind. It comes with colossal opportunities, but also threats that are difficult to predict. Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said, according to RT.
China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science. Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 4, 2017
The billionaire entrepreneur’s statements were quick, but rocked Twitter as fans weighed in on the likelihood of Musk’s ideas. Musk also cited China as a leading competitor, singling out all nations with strong computer science operations.
The United States has a strong computer science field, with tech giants like Google stemming from the U.S. But Goldman Sachs recently released a report detailing how China’s AI efforts are beginning to put the country on par with the U.S.
The tweets are the latest in Musk’s ardent opposition to unregulated AI development. Musk has gone toe-to-toe with others in his field, saying that AI development could become out of control and threaten the existence of human civilization.
“I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI and I think people should be really concerned about it,” Musk said. “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.”
A few weeks ago, Musk joined over 100 other leaders in the field of artificial intelligence in calling upon the United Nations to take action against autonomous weapons.
This was the first time tech leaders, which included Google Alphabet’s Mustafa Suleyman, assembled to issue a “warning letter” regarding the safety of AI weapons technology.
“These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways. We do not have long to act. Once this Pandora’s box is opened, it will be hard to close,” read the letter.
Musk has also scrapped with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg after the social media creator said during a Facebook LiveStream that he was optimistic about the future of AI.
“I have pretty strong opinions on this. I am optimistic,” Zuckerberg said. “And I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”
Musk fired back on Twitter, questioning Zuckerberg’s understanding of the technology.
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
In addition to advocating for safer AI development, Musk helped form OpenAI, a nonprofit geared toward developing technology in a safe and responsible manner.
As AI continues to gain ground and play a bigger role on the world stage, industry leaders like Musk and Suleyman will likely continue to advocate for responsible development.