Elon Musk wants to protect humanity from the robot apocalypse. Artificial intelligence has been growing at a rapid pace thanks in part to deep learning, but the world's brightest minds worry.

Facebook and Google have announced big plans to advance AI in their respective research divisions. But Musk and many others want to make sure AI is built to benefit humanity, which is why he and other prominent tech figures are helping to launch OpenAI, a nonprofit organization.

The organization believes it's “important to have a leading research institution which can prioritize a good outcome for all over its own self-interest.”

Below, futurist and entrepreneur Michael Vassar runs through a worst-case scenario:

In the past, Musk has signed an open letter calling for the prevention of an autonomous robotic army, warning of the disastrous consequences for humanity and future advancements. The mission of OpenAI, however, is to make sure AI advancement is done ethically. 

“It's hard to fathom how much human-level AI could benefit society, and it's equally hard to imagine how much it could damage society if built or used incorrectly,” says the OpenAI blog entry.

Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Musk, Reid Hoffman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Infosys, and YC Research have donated $1 billion to help keep this vision alive. But OpenAI expects “to only spend a tiny fraction of this in the next few years.”

Four years ago, Peter Warren Singer, senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution, spoke to Big Think about the potential for a robot apocalypse. Well, Singer interviewed a number of scientists about this and found many of them thought it wasn't possible or it was a silly idea. However, Singer recalls what one Pentagon scientist said to him; he said, “'You know, I’m probably working on something that’s either going to kill or enslave my grandkids, but, you know, it’s really cool stuff, so why stop?'”

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Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

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