Elon Musk believes in the good of humanity. As he sees things, the collective power of goodness will save us from our future inventions, namely AI robots. That’s why he is spearheading an effort to create a platform for AI research that is open-source. It’s also why he’s so admired by the world.
There are plenty of philanthropic rich people with vision- look at what Bill Gates is doing for the world, after all. But few have the insight and the resources to save us all from ourselves, the way Elon Musk has. And for that, we love him.
Elon Musk, The Philosopher-Philanthropist
A techno optimist, Musk can’t suppress his enthusiasm for the world he envisions. It’s full of easy commuting (Hyperloop), clean energy (SunCity), easy banking (PayPal), green autonomy (Tesla) and endless possibilities (SpaceX).
Having won it big at a very young age by selling Zip2 (an online city guide) to Compaq for $307 million in cash at the young age of 28, and then at age 31 by selling his PayPal to eBay for $1.5 billion in stock, Musk has had many years to cultivate his giving philosophy. And all these years later, he is still shaped by the unique circumstances of having struck it very rich at a young age…and being Elon Musk.
What that means is, a brilliant man with humanistic vision who strikes it so rich so young can do amazing things. Still enjoying the optimistic hues of youth, Musk was able to turn philanthropic like no other, and dedicate his life to truly making the world a better place. Unrestrained by the cynicism and caution of older age, the Musk philosophy has been to think large and then to act on it.
Now in his 40s that means carefully considering the social impact of the technology he is developing, as if he feels responsible. As you can see, he has gone way beyond giving money…he is giving us his brilliant mind.
Musk’s Vision For Tech Development
So what is his latest gift to humanity? He’s going to save us from a future where machines have taken over the world.
As Musk sees it, gone should be the days when tech was developed in secret labs, only for the military or for the biggest, power-hungry corporations. OpenAI is for everyone. The reasoning goes: if everyone has access to the work, someone will eventually come up with some AI that counters whatever bad things are surely in store for us when the machines start taking over.
For if there is anything we have learned from history, it is that technology often becomes weaponized. As gun lobbyists would have us think, better to let everyone have the weapon than only the criminals (who will get weapons anyway).
Musk Cares About Humanity, But He Is Also A Businessman
Elon Musk makes AI research open, but there are advantages form in that. It allows him access to research he would not otherwise have. Namely, that is the minds at DeepMind which he actually used to be a part of. He was an early investor of the AI firm but when Google bought the company that door closed.
Now with the OpenAI movement he is coaxing everyone out into the light where all research is available to the rest…or most of it, anyway.
Is Anyone Else Thinking (and acting) On This Level?
How about the consequences of AI on the future of the human race? What about the economic impact of our near-future selves? Who thinks about these things, who has power with the people…other than Elon Musk (and Stephen Hawking), that is? Musk has not only the vision but also the cash and the celebrity to bring these issues into the discussion.
So not only is Musk leading us into the future with technology he backs, but also with ethics. AI ethics is one of his personal favorite topics, and it stems from a true concern for how his (and other others’) technology will change the world.
Last year he really put his money where his mouth is and donated $10 million to the Future of Life Institute. The FLI wants to make sure that AI isn’t going to be used for bad things, but rather used to benefit humanity.
The FLI is run by volunteers, and conducts research and outreach on “existential risks” facing humanity. Stephen Hawking sits on the board of advisors along with Musk. The goal: safeguard life and develop optimistic visions of the future…right up Musk’s alley!
Warning Us Against What His Own Inventions Might Bring To Bear On The Future
The idea that something could go wrong with AI isn’t a new one- but it is surprising that support for preventing such scenarios as outlined in “I, Robot” or other sci-fi media interpretations of AI gone wrong comes from Elon Musk.
He is, after all, behind SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Hyperloop…all of which are likely to benefit from AI research in the near future. But that is what we all love about Elon Musk- he has a heart as well as a brain.