Few would argue against calling Elon Musk a visionary. It's a requisite trait of most inventors, particularly those who are focused on future game changing technologies. Musk certainly has plenty of those in mind, from reinventing daily commutes with Tesla's Autopilot technology to Hyperloop, a high-speed transportation system for longer trips. His interests are varied, but when it comes to envisioning the future, Musk has five specific areas he's identified as the most likely to affect humanity.
The first and biggest one is artificial intelligence, especially when looking at the near-term future. Part of the reason Musk thinks AI should take center stage is because there's potential for it to go wrong. There's the familiar Skynet scenario as portrayed in Terminator, where artificially intelligent systems gain self-awareness and ultimately view humans as a threat to their existence. That's a bad thing (for humans).
"It's very important that we have the advent of AI in a good way. It's something that, if you could look into the crystal ball and to the future, you would like that outcome because it is something that could go wrong," Musk stated in an interview with Y Combinator.
The second item on his list is "anything to do with genetics," and in particular genetic reprogramming. He's not thinking in terms of creating a superhuman race, but solving genetic diseases.
"If you can prevent dementia or Alzheimer's or something like that with genetic reprogramming, that would be wonderful," Musk added.
Third on his list is a having a high-bandwidth interface to the brain. Thinking of humans in terms of machines, we have bottlenecks just like any other technology. Ours happens to be bandwidth, Musk says, and specifically in the "interface between the cortex and that tertiary digital form of yourself."
The last two items on his list are sustainable energy and multi-planetary life, both of which he's been involved with for a long time. And if you go back 25 years, those would have been the top two items.
"Well, first of all, I should say that I do not expect to be involved in all these things. So, the five things that I thought about at the time in college, so quite a long time ago, 25 years ago, making life multi-planetary, accelerating the transmission to sustainable energy, the Internet broadly speaking, and then genetics, and AI. I didn't expect to be involved in all those things," Musk said.
It's an interesting interview that's well worth 20 minutes of your time, or less if you prefer to read the transcript (hit the source link). Either way, check it out and let us know what you think.