At the beginning of 2015 billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk committed a substantial amount of money to Boston-based Future of Life Institute. The volunteer organization has since awarded million in grants. The 37 winning projects focus on protecting humankind from what Musk considers the “biggest existential threat” to our existence – Artificial Intelligence.
The founder of Tesla and SpaceX gifted the Future of Life Institute a total of 0 million in January. At the time, the billionaire entrepreuner said he desired to support research “aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”
As Musk famously said, “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.”
The Future of Life Institute is a global research program working to mitigate existential risks facing humanity. The Future of Life Institute is currently focused on potential risks from the development of human-level artificial intelligence. One of the founders is Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype. And members of their scientific advisory board include Elon Musk, Morgan Freeman, Stephen Hawking and Alan Alda. The mission of Future of Life is to catalyze and support research and initiatives for safeguarding life and developing optimistic visions of the future, including positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.
Among the list of grant recipients is the director of the University of Oxford’s program on the Impact of Future Technology Nick Bostrom. The .5 million grant will fund the creation of a joint Oxford-Cambridge think tank. They will minimize the risk of AI through the development of government and industrial policy.
Also at Oxford, Michael Wooldridge would supply a code of ethics to guide researchers and anticipate possible ethical issues resulting from their work.
In America, University of Denver researcher Heather Roff Perkins will study meaningful human control of autonomous weapons systems. The partnering of AI and weapons will change the future of warfare. The work intends to produce a framework to shape research and policy. Additionally, Roff intends to create a freely downloadable dataset on existing and emerging weapon systems with autonomous functions.
Musk is not the only celebrity with an interest in artificial intelligence. Together with actor Ashton Kutcher and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg they have invested in Vicarious. The company aims to build a computer that thinks like a human. The company’s aim is to build a neural network capable of replicating the part of the brain that controls vision, body movement and language. It’s ultimate aim is to build a “computer that thinks like a person,” according to the company’s co-founder Scott Phoenix says, “except it doesn’t have to eat or sleep.” Vicarious has raised 0 million in funding.
Elon Musk was also an early investor in Deep Mind – an AI firm that was later acquired by Google for more than 00 million.
Speaking to CNBC, Musk explained that his investments were, “not from the standpoint of actually trying to make any investment return… I like to just keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is potentially a dangerous outcome there.”
“There have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator,” Musk continued. “There are some scary outcomes. And we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad.”