His view was driven by the notion that, in his eyes, AI represents a “fundamental risk to the existence of civilization.”
Musk’s plea was to be proactive, rather than reactive, in implementing regulations to avoid getting to a point where action is only taken after negative things happen. This argument for regulation of burgeoning industries is nothing new.
Regulating a new world
Over a century ago, the modern car was invented in the UK and soon after came the Red Flag Act. There were fears these machines would kill people if used incorrectly so the act required three people to operate the vehicle at all times - a driver, a person to fuel it up and someone to stand in front of the car and wave a red flag. There was also a 3km/h speed limit which soon became 19km/h.
At the same time, no such laws existed in the US and this meant no restrictions on the development of cars. Henry Ford launched the Model T in 1908 and it had a top speed of 72km/h.
Could regulation restrict AI development?
There’s an obvious similarity to what is happening now with AI and the same outcome could well occur. If one country introduces regulation, it’s likely that a country without those regulations will simply further develop AI’s capabilities. And in a world which is much more connected than 100 years ago, the obstacles of regulation are much lower.
X Prize Chairman and CEO, Peter Diamandis, says government regulation cannot prevent technological innovation because 'it will happen somewhere else.'