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Elon Musk warns of ‘benign dependency’ on AI: ‘dangerous to civilization’


Long known for his warnings on the potential dangers of A.I., Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Monday cautioned that even a “benign dependency” on these complex machines can threaten civilization.

Musk’s reasoning was that reliance on A.I. to perform seemingly simple tasks can, over time, create an environment in which humans forget how to operate the machines that enabled A.I. in the first place. 

“Even benign dependency on AI/Automation is dangerous to civilization if taken so far that we eventually forget how the machines work,” Musk tweeted. 

The argument came in a follow-up post, recommending E.M. Forster’s 1909 dystopian short story, “The Machine Stops.” The story predicted a future in which humanity is overly reliant and subordinate to machines. 

In response to Musk’s tweet, a Twitter user shared the following quote from the story: “Above her, beneath her, and around her, the Machine hummed eternally; she did not notice the noise, for she had been born with it in her ears.” 

Musk has for many years expressed strong opinions about A.I. and has dismissed other tech leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, for having what he has described as a “limited” understanding of the field.


Elon Musk said “benign dependency on AI is dangerous to civilization if taken so far that we eventually forget how the machines work.”
NTB/AFP via Getty Images

Musk was an early investor in OpenAI – the startup behind ChatGPT – and co-chaired its board upon its 2015 founding as a nonprofit AI research lab. But Musk only lasted there for a few years, resigning from the board in early 2018 in a move that the San Francisco startup tied to Tesla’s work on building automated driving systems. 

Earlier this year, Musk was among a group of technology and AI luminaries – including Andrew Yang and Steve Wozniak – who penned an open letter urging a moratorium on the development of AI, citing “profound risks to society and humanity.” 





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