He’s already trying to get us into space, but now SpaceX founder Elon Musk is trying to make sure the HAL 9000 doesn’t kill us all once we get there.
Musk, along with a gaggle of Silicon Valley players, has founded the new nonprofit venture OpenAI. The initiative is devoted to advancing digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return. With no need to raise money, OpenAI hopes to “better focus on a positive human impact.” The foundation believes AI should be an extension of individual human wills, and in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as is possible safely.
“Just like humans protect against Dr. Evil by the fact that most humans are good, and the collective force of humanity can contain the bad elements, we think its far more likely that many, many AIs, will work to stop the occasional bad actors than the idea that there is a single AI a billion times more powerful than anything else,” Y Combinator CEO Sam Altman said in an interview with Backchannel. "If that one thing goes off the rails or if Dr. Evil gets that one thing and there is nothing to counteract it, then we’re really in a bad place.”
By focusing on developing AI that is a “benefit” to humanity, Musk and OpenAI are essentially working to prevent something cataclysmic like Skynet or HAL 9000. By helping drive the direction of AI development, they hope to keep the focus on “helpful” instead of “ruling us all.”
Here’s hoping we’re not too late.