Musk: Artificial Intelligence Poses 'Civilizational Risk'


Chief Executive Officer of SpaceX and Tesla and owner of Twitter, Elon Musk attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre on June 16, 2023 in Paris, France.
(Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images)


X owner Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, warned US senators during a private gathering on Capitol Hill that artificial intelligence (AI) poses a “civilizational risk,” potentially threatening all of humanity.

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This exclusive AI summit included other tech luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Sundar Pichai, and Sam Altman, among many other political, economic, and cultural elites. Musk stressed the need for proactive measures to prevent potential severe consequences of AI going wrong: “The question is really one of civilizational risk. It’s not like … one group of humans versus another. It’s like, hey, this is something that’s potentially risky for all humans everywhere,” he said.

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Musk also endorsed the establishment of a new federal agency to oversee AI and acknowledged a nonzero chance that AI could end humanity, emphasizing the fragility of human civilization. Musk’s remarks resonated with Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), who noted down his phrase “civilizational risk.” Lummis found the discussion surprisingly interesting and helpful, which ranged from immigration reform for high-tech workers to standards reforms at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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The bipartisan gathering, known as the AI Insight Forum, was hosted by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), along with Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Todd Young (R-IN) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). It aimed to brainstorm how lawmakers could regulate AI. Schumer stated that there was consensus on the government’s role in regulating AI, despite diverse views: “I asked everyone in the room does government need to play a role in regulating AI, and every single person raised their hand.”

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, echoed this sentiment in his prepared remarks, stating that the government should balance innovation and safeguards in AI. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, also noted broad agreement on the need to treat AI regulation with seriousness and urgency, calling for government leadership. Despite some disagreements on the approach, all agreed on the importance and urgency of the matter.

However, the closed-door nature of the forum drew criticism, with some senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), expressing concern about tech billionaires lobbying senators behind closed doors on crucial issues. Schumer defended the gathering, stating that it included not just tech billionaires but also labor and civil rights leaders, national security experts, and academics. He underscored that inaction on AI is unacceptable, given its potential to transform every aspect of life and pose significant risks if misused.


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