In Brief

Elon Musk: AI ‘most likely cause of WWIII’

South African billionaire sends warning after Putin says leaders in AI ‘will become the ruler of the world’

Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has once again said that artificial intelligence (AI) systems have the potential to start global warfare if the technology were to fall into the wrong hands. 

The South African billionaire said in a tweet: “Competition for AI superiority at national level most likely cause of WWIII [in my opinion]”.

He adds that wars “may be initiated not by the country leaders, but one of the AI's, if it decides that a preemptive strike is [the] most probable path to victory”.

Musk’s tweets were made in response to comments made by Vladimir Putin, originally reported by RT, who said: “Artificial intelligence is the future, not only for Russia, but for all humankind.”

He said AI comes with “threats that are difficult to predict”, but “whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world”. 

It’s not the first time Musk has aired concerns about the potential of these technologies. 

Last month, BBC News reported that he and other experts in AI wrote an open letter to the United Nations (UN) calling for the ban of “killer robots” before the technology is used in warfare. 

Musk also told a group of US state politicians in Rhode Island in July that the government must “learn as much as possible” and “gain insight” into how the technology works.

However, Business Insider says “no one really knows how advanced the technology will become or who will look to harness it and how.”

As it currently stands, “the smartest self-thinking machines today are still unable to perform more than one task and they still have limited use”, the website says. 

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