One of the biggest things that keeps Elon Musk up at night doesn’t have anything to do with Tesla or SpaceX — in fact, it’s a fear that sounds like something from a science fiction film.
In his new book, “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future,” Bloomberg reporter Ashlee Vance writes about what Musk is truly afraid of.
Here’s Vance’s account of a conversation he had over dinner with Musk, as it appears in the book:
He opened up about the major fear keeping him up at night: namely that Google’s cofounder and CEO Larry Page might well have been building a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind. “I’m really worried about this,” Musk said. It didn’t make Musk feel any better that he and Page were very close friends and that he felt Page was fundamentally a well-intentioned person and not Dr. Evil. In fact, that was sort of the problem. Page’s nice-guy nature left him assuming that the machines would forever do our bidding. “I’m not as optimistic, Musk said. “He could produce something evil by accident.”
This is not the first time Musk has spoken on the topic of artificial intelligence. He even said it could be the “biggest existential threat to humans” if it’s not regulated properly when speaking at MIT’s annual AeroAstra Centennial Symposium in October.
“With artificial intelligence we’re summoning the demon,” he said at the conference.
According to Vance, Musk has always kept tabs on the development of artificial intelligence.
“He’s always had an eye on artificial intelligence because he’s totally into sci-fi and he reads all of these books,” Vance said in an interview with Business Insider. “And I think he’s been investing in a lot of AI startups to keep an eye on them.”
But Larry Page, a longtime friend of Musk’s, views artificial intelligence differently. He thinks there’s an inevitable shift coming in which computers will be much more well-equipped to take on most jobs, and we should embrace it, as he said in an interview with The Financial Times last year.
“Their relationship is getting more complex, because Elon thinks Larry’s a good guy in his heart, but he’s worried he’s making an artificial intelligence that can take over mankind and destroy it,” Vance said in an interview with Business Insider. “And I think he feels on some level that Larry is naive in the sense that he thinks this will go right.”
Musk isn’t the only figure in science and technology that feels strongly about the idea that artificial intelligence should be approached with caution. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have both voiced similar opinions.