The rapid advancement of artificial intelligence in recent months has led to increased concern among many experts that the technology will progress to a dangerous and unmanageable point without swift and decisive regulatory efforts.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who signed an open letter earlier this year calling for a pause in AI development, met with lawmakers in D.C. this week to call for the creation of a new federal agency tasked with addressing the issue.
He used the opportunity to warn of the “civilizational risk” that AI poses, later describing the roughly three-hour closed-door meeting with senators as a “historic” event. Other tech titans, including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and OpenAI CEO Sam Altman were also in attendance.
As for his vision for a dedicated new federal agency, Musk indicated that he believes it should be capable of monitoring the advancement of AI and stepping in to promote regulation as needed.
“The consequences of AI going wrong are severe, so we have to be proactive rather than reactive,” he asserted, noting that unlike many other threats to humanity in the past, this one is “potentially risky for all humans everywhere.”
Musk was marginally more optimistic than some other AI alarmists, saying that he believes the risk of AI completely destroying mankind is “low.”
Earlier this year, AI theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky, who has been warning of such threats for decades, wrote: “I think we’re not ready, I think we don’t know what we’re doing, and I think we’re all going to die.”
A survey conducted by Yale University in June found that more than two-fifths of CEOs believe AI could wipe out humanity in less than a decade.
For his part, Musk admitted that there is “some chance” of complete human annihilation, so the issue warrants serious attention. He said there seems to be a “strong consensus” that the federal government should play a pivotal role in addressing these concerns.
Zuckerberg, who serves as CEO of Meta, said in a statement that he agrees “Congress should engage with AI to support innovation and safeguards,” adding: “This is an emerging technology, there are important equities to balance here, and the government is ultimately responsible for that.”