Elon Musk On AI: 'We're Summoning The Demon'

During a recent MIT talk, Elon Musk likened artificial intelligence research to summoning a demon beyond control.

Elon Musk On AI: 'We're Summoning The Demon'
Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian

It's hard to call Elon Musk a technophobe — the Tesla CEO has been a vocal proponent of space exploration, the electric car and something called a "hyperloop."

But there's one bit of future tech Musk isn't so keen on: artificial intelligence. And during a recent MIT aerospace symposium, Musk issued a grave warning about the potential dangers of AI research.

"With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. You know all those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram and the holy water, and he's like, yeah, he's sure he can control the demon. Doesn't work out."

Of course, we've all seen plenty of big-budget sci-fi warnings about havoc-wreaking robots, but Musk has actually been pretty consistent with his AI phobia.

In June, he told CNBC his investments in AI research were meant "to keep an eye on" the technology, and a tweet from early August warns artificial intelligence could be "potentially more dangerous than nukes."

But this is the first time demons have been brought into the conversation, and a few sites took Musk to task for his hyperbole. 

A CNET writer quips "Who knows what demonic hellscape could emerge if we ever let artificially intelligent machines get ahold of a Ouija board." While Mashable writes, "Forget Tony Stark, the comic book character most often associated with Musk, it may be time to start thinking Doctor Strange. Pentagram? Really, Elon?"

Musk's concern is somewhat timely — AI research has hit a new wave of popularity among big tech companies. Google recently acquired two artificial intelligence companies, adding to its growing stable of AI researchers.

And Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg mentioned artificial intelligence was a key part of Facebook's mission in his much-talked about Chinese Q&A.

But despite smarter and smarter computer algorithms, most experts still say AI development is a long way off. A recent Computerworld article noted that while there've been a lot of developments on specific aspects of AI, other pieces of the puzzle haven't seen any recent progress.

For the record, Musk's MIT talk focused mostly on space exploration and Mars rather than Satanic androids. He talked at length about the problems and potential solutions around a colony on Mars, saying humanity's survival hinges on becoming a "multi-planet species."

This video includes an image from Getty Images.