The latter movie, about the potential threat posed by artificial intelligence, comes with a thumbs-up from Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla who has long voiced serious concerns about AI.
Musk is one of the prominent interviewees in “Do You Trust This Computer?” — which was made by Chris Paine, the filmmaker behind “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Paine’s new 78-minute documentary had its premiere on Thursday night, and is available for free streaming through Sunday.
Nothing will affect the future of humanity more than digital super-intelligence. Watch Chris Paine’s new AI movie for free until Sunday night at https://t.co/WehHcZX7Qe
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 6, 2018
Musk brings the money quote when he points out that the evil leaders of the past, such as Adolf Hitler, held only limited sway because they were mortal. That wouldn’t be the case if an evil but superintelligent computer were to take control, he says.
“You would have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape,” he says.
Other cautions come from the likes of Berkeley’s Stuart Russell, the Singularity Institute’s Ray Kurzweil, MIT’s Max Tegmark, Stanford’s Jerry Kaplan and James Barrat, the author of “Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era.”
You get the idea.
Microsoft Research’s Eric Horvitz, IBM’s David Ferrucci and Kitty Hawk’s Sebastian Thrun also chime in, but I get the feeling that they’re not as fearful of a Terminator-style takeover (and yes, there’s a clip from the “Terminator” movie).
The documentary touches on the current debate over Facebook’s flaws, but Musk singles out Google Deepmind for special concern. “With a little software update, that AI could take control of the whole Google system, which means they could do anything,” he says.
Rather than trying to beat the machines, Musk argues that we should assimilate them — by developing brain-computer interfaces that will give us AI powers. That’s the point behind Neuralink, one of the ventures he’s backing.
On that point, I side with Jonathan Nolan, the co-creator of HBO’s “Westworld,” who gets a lot of screen time in Paine’s documentary. When Nolan shared the stage with Musk at last month’s South by Southwest conference, he was somewhat skeptical about getting a brain implant.
“I’m keeping my brain air-gapped,” Nolan said.
There’s no question that automation, robotics and AI will transform society in the years to come — particularly when it comes to employment trends. But the outcome is sure to be more nuanced than a “Terminator” prequel.