Attacks against artificial intelligence usually fall within the domain of fiction literature and the conspiracy theorists. But not this time, as Tesla Motors founder and CEO Elon Musk threw his support behind several groups that will now be investigating risks and threats from AI, a branch of computer science that aims to simulate human behavior and intelligence in computing and robotics.
Musk has pronounced that AI constitutes the single biggest existential threat to human life, citing that it is "potentially more dangerous than nukes," according to a CNET report. In October, he also stated that "with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon. In all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, it's like - yeah, he's sure he can control the demon. Doesn't work out," according to The Guardian.
Musk's interest in AI was widely publicized in January when he announced a donation of $10 million to The Future of Life Institute, an organization committed to mitigating dangers caused by emerging technologies. The organization identified on Wednesday 37 research groups that will receive a share of $7 million in grants, Fortune reported. This marks the second stage of Musk's sponsored initiative, which will begin in September. The research groups, which will receive their respective grants in the span of three years, aim to find ways to "manage the liability for the harms they [AI] might cause to individuals and property," Fortune reported.
However, Musk's initiative is not entirely against AI technology. Some of the grant winners are also keen in discovering its positive aspects, particularly AI's benefits to human life. The Duke University research group, for example, is investigating the link between AI and ethics in an effort to understand and make it better in the future. The research orientation of the grant winners indicate a focus on practical issues in AI, which distinguishes it from the Hollywood-favored theme of machines rising against humans.