Why Elon Musk thinks human-A.I. symbiosis can thwart “evil dictator A.I.”

"We don't have to worry about some evil dictator A.I. because we are the A.I. collectively. That seems like the best outcome I can think of," says Elon Musk.


Last Sunday, a particularly unusual DotA 2 tournament took place. DotA, a complicated, real-time strategy game, is among the most popular e-sports in the world. The five players of one team—Blitz, Cap, Fogged, Merlini, and MoonMeander—were ranked in the 99.95th percentile, inarguably among the best DotA 2 players in the world. However, their opponent still defeated them in two out three games, winning the tournament. An evenly matched game is supposed to take 45 minutes, but these two were over in 14 and 21 minutes, respectively.

Their opponent was a team of five neural networks developed by Elon Musk's OpenAI, collectively referred to as OpenAI Five. Prior to Sunday's tournament, the neural network played 180 years' worth of DotA matches against itself every day, edging incrementally closer to mastery over the game. The reason why its creators chose DotA as OpenAI Five's focus was to mimic the incredibly variable and complex nature of the real world; DotA is a complicated game, and if an A.I. is going to be able to process and interact with the world rather than, say, learn to plot a GPS course or play chess, open-ended video games are a good place to start.

While this is an impressive technical achievement on its own, Musk's victory tweet highlighted that this was just a stepping stone toward the future of A.I.

Great work by @OpenAI. Need the neural interface soon to enable human/AI symbiosis.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 6, 2018

However, there are other concerns directly tied to the particular approach Musk is taking here. The Morningside Group, an organization composed of neuroscientists, neurotechnologists, ethicists, and machine-intelligence engineers, describes several ethical concerns regarding the intimate connection of the human mind with a cloud-based A.I. First is privacy and consent. Consider all of the allegations surrounding Facebook's collection of data. Even if a future human/A.I. symbiote is open source and decentralized, whose personal data will be subsumed into the cloud? How will and how can one keep control over personal data in this scenario?

Agency and identity is another problematic issue. That isn't to say that others hooked up to the cloud might learn your identity; you might lose your sense of self entirely. If everyone can interface with a cloud-based intelligence, an individual's intelligence might cease to mean anything.

There is also the question of how this augmentation will be used in society. Of particular concern is the idea that A.I.-enhanced human beings could be used in warfare, and a new augmentation arms race could begin.

What's more, the biases inherent to our society tend to be adopted in the technologies we create. Google shows lower-paying job ads to women, and algorithms used by U.S. law enforcement overwhelmingly predict that black offenders will re-offend compared to white offenders accused of the same crime. It's possible that an A.I. would be able to objectively sidestep these biases, but that shouldn't be assumed to be the case.

The trouble with all of this is that there is simply no objective way to know how A.I. will impact our society. It's a shift that will be too radical for us to comprehend. At the same time, these changes will happen, and we must make preparations. Through OpenAI and Neuralink, Musk appears to be doing so by determining the course of A.I. development from its inception.

Big Think
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