‘There’s a non-zero chance’ of AI wiping out humanity

Billionaire Elon Musk and ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt are stepping up warnings about their concerns that rogue advanced artificial intelligence could one day have deadly consequences for humanity.

Schmidt argued that AI is an “existential risk” to humanity that could result in “many, many, many, many people harmed or killed” as it becomes more advanced in the coming years. Musk compared the potential risks to the doomsday scenario from James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi film “Terminator.”

“There are scenarios not today, but reasonably soon, where these systems will be able to find zero-day exploits in cyber issues, or discover new kinds of biology,” Schmidt said at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit on Wednesday.

“Now, this is fiction today, but its reasoning is likely to be true,” Schmidt added. “And when that happens, we want to be ready to know how to make sure these things are not misused by evil people.”

Speaking at the same conference a day earlier, Musk warned there is a “non-zero chance” that rogue advanced artificial intelligence could annihilate humanity.

“There’s a non-zero chance of it going Terminator. It’s not zero percent,” Musk said. “It’s a small likelihood of annihilating humanity, but it’s not zero. We want that probability to be as close to zero as possible.”

Musk also raised the possibility that an advanced AI system could decide to place humanity “under strict controls.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger played the original “Terminator.”
©Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

AI could, for example, decide to seize “all the computing systems and weapons systems of Earth and effectively being like some sort of ‘uber-nanny.’” he said.

“One way to achieve world peace is to take all the weapons away from the humans so they can no longer use them and to punish any humans that engage in extraterritorial activity,” Musk added.

Musk and Schmidt are among the most prominent tech leaders urging caution in the development of AI – though they have taken differing approaches to the problem.

In March, Musk joined more than 1,000 experts in advocating for a…