Tesla and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk has gone on record before proclaiming the potential risks of artificial intelligence, and now he’s putting his money where his mouth is. The intrepid inventor and entrepreneur announced a donation of $10 million to help fund research to “keep AI beneficial” to humanity today. The funds go to the Future of Life Institute (FLI), an organization run by volunteers dedicated to research aimed at “mitigate[ing] existential risks facing humanity,” and specifically those related to our ongoing progress towards AI that can approach human capabilities.
Musk offered a statement along with the announcement, noting that he is in agreement with a long list of prominent AI researchers who have signed an open letter calling for exactly the type of work the FLI is doing.
“Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important”, said Elon Musk in the statement, referring to this letter originally put forward by FLI founder and MIT professor Max Tegmark. “I agree with them, so I’m today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”
The FLI will distribute the funds donated by Musk to relevant research products, and some of it will make its way to participants in an open grants competition opening for applications on Monday January 19 to help select projects that look at AI-specialist researchers in particular, and then at research in ethics, law, economics and other areas which feature AI-related components.
While the threat of an evil AI has seemed like a concern primarily for science fiction authors for most of modern history, it’s undeniable that questions about how ethics and law apply to computers with intelligence on par with human counterparts is becoming something we likely do indeed start to begin preparing for. Musk’s interest in talking about, and funding thinking around this side of the equation, at the same time as he continues to espouse technical progress, is refreshing, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of results come from research in this area.