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Musk warns of worst-case scenario from artificial intelligence

Tesla CEO Elon Musk waves as he leaves the stage after speaking at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Providence, R.I., on Saturday. Photo credit: REUTERS

Tesla CEO Elon Musk warned a gathering of U.S. governors on Saturday that government regulation of artificial intelligence is needed because it’s a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization,” according to several media reports.

Musk, a vocal proponent of AI who helped form OpenAI, a nonprofit research group that backs the safe rollout of the emerging technology, also called for the creation of a regulatory body to guide development of the powerful technology, The Wall Street Journalreported.

“Right now the government doesn’t even have insight,” Musk told the governors. “Once there is awareness people will be extremely afraid, as they should be.”

Ford Motor Co. and other automakers have begun to invest in artificial intelligence startups as part of efforts to development and commercialize self-driving vehicles and other mobility technology.

The founder of electric carmaker Tesla also pressed some governors to revisit state franchise dealership laws that ban the direct sale of the company’s models to consumers.

Musk also broadly addressed solar energy, space travel, autonomous vehicles and other emerging technology during a question-and-answer session at the National Governors Association’s summer conference in Rhode Island, the Associated Press said.

The AP reported that during the meeting Musk met privately with some governors, including Louisiana Democrat John Bel Edwards, who recently signed a law that Tesla says blocks it from selling cars there.

Edwards said Tesla asked for the one-on-one meeting with Musk, which was short, the AP said.

“I just asked him to come down to Louisiana and sit down with us, sit down with the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association and work out some sort of a compromise, which they have successfully done in other states,” Edwards told the AP.

The practice of direct sales to consumers also came up in meetings between Musk and two other governors — the conference’s host, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, and Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. The AP reported that representatives for the two Democrats confirmed they had private meetings with Musk and the topic came up.

Musk didn’t mention direct sales in his public remarks before the governors, but he did address regulation generally — and reiterated his long-held argument that state and/or federal oversight is needed soon to protect humanity from being outsmarted by computers, or “deep intelligence in the network” that can start wars by manipulating information.

When pressed for more detailed guidance by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, Musk said the first step is for government to get a better understanding of the fast-moving achievements in developing artificial intelligence technology.

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