Elon Musk Warns That Artificial Intelligence Digital Arms Race Could Spark World War III

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Do you want World War III? Because artificial intelligence (AI) is how you get World War III — well, at least according to SpaceX/Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Musk has long been an incredibly outspoken tech figure against the rise of AI, and the threat that it poses to humanity. Now the tech wizard says that AI could end up sparking another global conflict that could ensnare the world’s superpowers.

Musk often uses Twitter as a means to let his myriad of thoughts flow out to the general populous, and those thoughts were on clear display this morning. “China, Russia, soon all countries w strong computer science,” Musk warned. “Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WW3 imo.”

Musk went on to elaborate about a scenario straight out of the classic 1983 flick WarGames:

That’s nothing new coming from Musk, but many were quick to point out that his tweets seemed like a telling response to comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a recent talk with students via a satellite broadcast, Putin extolled the potential of AI and the digital arms race that will follow.

"Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind,” said Putin. “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.”

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But in case you are picturing a shirtless Putin on horseback with his pinky finger in his mouth, he shifted his tone slightly, striking a less ominous approach. "If we become leaders in this area, we will share this know-how with entire world, the same way we share our nuclear technologies today."

Well, that’s good to know… we think

Earlier this month, Musk expressed his concerns about killer AI-powered robots to the United Nations, stating:

Lethal autonomous weapons threaten to become the third revolution in warfare. Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. 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.

In July, Musk got into a war of words with Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, questioning his ability to comprehend the dangers of AI. “I've talked to Mark about this,” explained Musk. “His understanding of the subject is limited.” More recently, Musk stated that AI is more of an immediate threat that North Korea.

First image courtesy Maurizio Pesce/flickr. Second image courtesy Heisenberg Media/flickr.