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article imageWill AI really prompt World War III?

By James Walker     Sep 7, 2017 in Technology
Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has suggested a world race to "AI superiority" could be the trigger for World War III. He cautioned against AI proliferation in a response to comments by President Putin that called AI "the future for humanity."
Musk has previously spoken out about the dangers of AI. Unusually for a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Musk is taking a cautious approach to widespread artificial intelligence. After engaging in a heated war of words with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg over the summer, Musk this week turned his attention to other quarters.
Writing on Twitter, Musk warned that AI could spark a global crisis as nations rush to create the most capable technology. He claimed competition for "AI superiority" is the "most likely" cause of World War III, envisioning a kind of AI arms race that leads to increasingly more powerful machines.
Musk's comments were indirectly aimed at Russian President Vladimir Putin. Last week, Putin described AI as "the future for all humankind." Putin believes that a nation which dominates AI "will become the ruler of the world," strongly implying Russia's stepping up its efforts to develop autonomous machines. His certainty in AI's capability to redistribute power is an exemplar of Musk's concerns with the technology.
The debate boils down to one of the longest standing questions around AI. We don't yet have the resources or understanding to appreciate the full impact it will have. There are no hard ethics standards to judge a robot's behaviour. Nations are currently free to develop AI as they see fit, including autonomous weapons that Musk previously suggested could create a new era of mass destruction.
According to Musk, the problems don't necessarily lie with the creators and operators of AI tech. Responsible nations that use AI in accordance with future ethics codes could still find themselves triggering the next global conflict. In another tweet, Musk suggested World War III could be started by a robot. If a reward-based weapons-equipped machine decides a pre-emptive strike is the most likely way of achieving victory, there may not be time for humans to intervene.
There are also concerns about AI's role in narrower sections of society. A recent survey of millennials uncovered fears that AI will create "sterile" workplaces. Individuals are still alarmed by the possibility they might be forced out of work, even as studies find autonomous tech is creating new, more advantageous positions.
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With so much about AI still to be understood, Musk's outspoken wariness offers a reminder that AI developers have to keep considering ethics. It's a tough issue and one that's not going to be easily resolved. Putin's suggestion that AI is the gateway to becoming "the ruler of the world" demonstrates the technology is already outgrowing Silicon Valley. World leaders are eyeing it as a way to cement their nation's status on the planet, highlighting how its role in society is already growing.
More about Artificial intelligence, Ai, machine learning, elon musk, future tech
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