Elon Musk Donates $10M to Keep AI From Turning Evil

ELON MUSK IS worried that artificial intelligence research could go wrong—very wrong.
This may seem unexpected, coming as it does from the architect of the conceptual high-speed transportation system Hyperloop, and the CEO of such moonshot-seeking companies as SpaceX and Tesla Motors. But Musk is so committed to this point of view that on Thursday, he announced a donation of $10 million to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), which will run a global research program aimed at keeping AI “beneficial to humanity.” In other words, Musk wants to keep AI from running loose and growing into something that’s a real danger to humans, a fear he’s expressed before.
Last week, an open letter from the Future of Life Institute circulated, containing the signatures of AI scientists who called for research that ensures AI systems aren’t being used for evil. With this donation, Elon Musk voiced his support for the movement. “Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important,” Musk said of the effort. “I agree with them, so I’m today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”
The program—and the $10 million donation—will fund research around the world supporting this mission. On Monday, the Future of Life Institute will open up a portal allowing researchers to apply for grants to the program. Beyond hardcore AI science, money will be awarded to researchers in other fields as well, including economics, law, ethics and policy. The FLI says the program will be open to individuals who work in academia, industry, or even independently.
For so long, the artificially intelligent future has been fodder for Hollywood and science fiction, or discussed abstractly in philosophy. But as behemoths like Google incorporate AI into the very core of its current and future technologies, and as a wave of smaller startups build businesses on top of the science, we can no longer deny its very real rise. AI is here to stay; but the debate over AI ethics is just beginning.


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