Elon Musk warns 'advanced A.I.' will soon manipulate social media

Musk also said that "anonymous bot swarms" should be investigated.

Elon Musk warns 'advanced A.I.' will soon manipulate social media

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/ Getty
  • On Thursday, Musk tweeted about the potential dangers of advanced A.I. manipulating social media.
  • It's unclear what prompted Musk to tweet about advanced A.I., but his tweets came hours after The New York Times published an article about digital disinformation campaigns.
  • Musk has a history of being rather pessimistic about the future of A.I.


Twitter bots in 2019 can perform some basic functions, like tweeting content, retweeting, following other users, quoting other users, liking tweets and even sending direct messages. But even though bots on Twitter and other social media seem to be getting smarter than previous iterations, these A.I. are still relatively unsophisticated in terms of how well they can manipulate social discourse.

But it's only a matter of time before more advanced A.I. changes begins manipulating the conversation on a large scale, according to Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

"If advanced A.I. (beyond basic bots) hasn't been applied to manipulate social media, it won't be long before it is," Musk tweeted on Thursday morning.

It's unclear exactly what Musk is referring to by "advanced A.I." but his tweet come just hours after The New York Times published an article outlining a study showing that at least 70 countries have experienced digital disinformation campaigns over the past two years.

"In recent years, governments have used 'cyber troops' to shape public opinion, including networks of bots to amplify a message, groups of "trolls" to harass political dissidents or journalists, and scores of fake social media accounts to misrepresent how many people engaged with an issue," Davey Alba and Adam Satariano wrote for the Times. "The tactics are no longer limited to large countries. Smaller states can now easily set up internet influence operations as well."

Musk followed up his tweet by saying that "anonymous bot swarms" — presumably referring to coordinated activity by a large number of social media bots — should be investigated.

"If they're evolving rapidly, something's up," he tweeted.

Musk has long predicted a gloomy future with AI. In 2017, he told staff at Neuralink – Musk's company that's developing an implantable brain-computer interface – that he thinks there's about "a five to 10 percent chance" of making artificial intelligence safe. In the documentary "Do You Trust Your Computer?", Musk warned of the dangers of a single organization someday developing superintelligence.

"The least scary future I can think of is one where we have at least democratized AI because if one company or small group of people manages to develop godlike digital superintelligence, they could take over the world," Musk said.

"At least when there's an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you'd have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape."

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