Elon Musk responds to Harvard professor Steven Pinker’s A.I. comments

By Prosyscom
In March 2, 2018


Psychologist Steven Pinker has a PhD from Harvard and is a professor there. He’s also taught at Stanford and MIT. He’s published 10 books and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He’s been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize twice. He’s got nine honorary doctorates, was listed as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World Today” by Time and is the chair of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel.

In sum, Pinker is widely regarded as a brilliant, accomplished man.

And that’s why billionaire tech titan Elon Musk says he is so disturbed by what he sees as Pinker’s lack of understanding of artificial intelligence. If Pinker doesn’t have a grasp of AI, “humanity is in deep trouble,” Musk says on Twitter.

The tweet was in response to a story about Pinker’s appearance on the podcast, “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy,” published in “Wired.”

In the episode, Pinker criticizes Musk for sounding alarm bells about the potential of AI, using Teslas’ self-driving capabilities as an example of why it’s not as threatening as Musk warns.

“If Elon Musk was really serious about the AI threat, he’d stop building those self-driving cars, which are the first kind of advanced AI that we’re going to see,” says Pinker on the podcast. (Teslas currently have the hardware necessary for fully self-driving capability, but not the software.)

“Now I don’t think he stays up at night worrying that someone is going to program into a Tesla, ‘Take me to the airport the quickest way possible,’ and the car is just going to make a beeline across sidewalks and parks, mowing people down and uprooting trees because that’s the way the Tesla interprets the command ‘take me by the quickest route possible,'” says Pinker.

“That’s just idiotic. You wouldn’t build a car that way, because that isn’t an example of artificial intelligence,” he continues. “Plus, he’d get sued and there’d be reputational harms. You’d test the living daylights out of it before you let it on the streets.”

Indeed, Musk has issued very dire warnings about the potential of AI.


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