Maybe Elon Musk Just Wants AI Out Of His Way

Lately several scientists and technologists have expressed their concern about artificial intelligence in a public letter published by the Future of Life Institute.  The letter is linked to a list of research priorities for so-called ‘beneficial’ artificial intelligence (AI) research.

Among the signatories is Elon Musk, who has also made a $10 million donation to the Future of Life Institute (he also serves on its Scientific Advisory Board). That money will help fund grants on beneficial AI research.

This isn’t the first time Musk has expressed his concerns about artificial intelligence, and it’s not surprising to see him back those concerns with cash.  He has invested in artificial intelligence before, but he’s probably not wealthy enough to buy the entire sector.

I think at least some of his concern is focused on his own ventures.  Besides SpaceX and Tesla Motors, Musk has taken steps on other ventures that could use artificial intelligence at some point in the future.  Popular Science reports (based on Bloomberg News) that Musk will start a microsatellite business (presumably through SpaceX), with the proceeds of that business (and the technological knowledge) used to support development of a Mars colony.

And then there’s the Hyperloop.  You might remember this ultrafast tube-based transportation system that Musk first mentioned in 20123.  It wasn’t just idle speculation.  Earlier today Musk announced that he will develop a test track for teams to run their Hyperloop pods.  The track will probably be in Texas.  And there is at least one startup already working on its own system, not just a pod.

This suggests that in the future, the big blue-sky competitions in this country could be through the X Prize, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or one of Musk’s companies.  Maybe we’ll get those flying cars after all.


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