If movies and TV are to be believed—and why wouldn’t they tell us the truth, they’ve never steered us wrong, right?—one of the biggest threats to the continued existence of humanity is artificial intelligence gone wild. From HAL 9000 to Skynet to Cylons and even this year’s Transcendence, tales of human creations that overflow their bounds and evolve beyond our control fill the annals of science fiction. Hell, that’s exactly what happened to Tony Stark in that Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer, his creation took on a life of its own and starts wrecking up the joint. Creating technology we can’t control may be a problem, and billionaire Elon Musk is concerned.
The subject came up when the founder and CEO of SpaceX and electric sports car manufacturer Tesla spoke at MIT recently. That’s where he unveiled that he thinks the most significant threat to humanity is AI. He said, “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So, we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence.”
One of the concerns expressed in science fiction is that we will create these technologies simply because we can, but in doing so we won’t stop to consider the larger ramifications or the potential downsides and pit falls. Musk went on to express concerns with our continuing ability to rein in the things we create and call for controls and parameters in this arena, even invoking the names of many significant sci-fi works, like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. He added:
I’m increasingly inclined to think that 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’re summoning the demon. You know 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? Doesn’t work out.
In case you haven’t watched it yet, here is the incredible Age of Ultron. Until Terminator: Genisys drops next year, reigniting fears about Skynet, this should do nicely to fuel your paranoia. And at least Skynet doesn’t have James Spader’s creepy ass voice.
And if you just can’t get enough, watch what happens when someone puts Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic over the top of the trailer. The way it matches up is uncanny, like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz uncanny. It may hurt your brain.
Fun aside, you know, it might not be the worst idea to establish some kind of failsafe as technology continues to evolve and the potential for something terrible to happen increases exponentially.