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Musk: Artificial Intelligence an Existential Crisis, Worse than Nukes, Must Be Regulated

Could artificial intelligence (AI) soon be subjected to regulatory oversight? It will if Elon Musk has his way. “AI is far more dangerous than nukes, by far, so why do we have no regulatory oversight? This is insane,” he said during a session at the South by Southwest Conference (SXSW) yesterday.

While AI – teaching machines to “learn” without being explicitly programmed – can be used in environmental management in many ways – to reduce risks related environment, health and safety, for example – it may also be the “single biggest existential crisis we face,” he said. Musk, the well-known entrepreneur and co-founder and CEO of Tesla, has been vocal about the dangers inherent in AI in the past, and has urged innovators to be aware of the risks AI poses (via ZDNet).

But as the rate of improvement in AI has become “really dramatic,” Musk exhorts AI experts to “figure out some way to ensure that the advent of digital super intelligence is one which is symbiotic with humanity.” Musk called AI a “very serious danger to the public,” and said there needs to be a public body that has insight and then oversight to confirm that everyone is developing AI safely.

But the continued development of AI could be very beneficial to the field of environmental management. In fact, AI “could be the way to solve the wicked challenge of sustainability,” according to Faizal Rohmat, a sustainability leadership fellow at Colorado State University. The complex nature of sustainability issues and our lack of understanding of how ecosystems work are a major challenge, he wrote last fall. Another challenge is the difficulty of implementing a holistic approach to addressing those challenges. Computer modeling has already helped in specific ways, he says – for example, by creating specific models of the ecosystem like ocean currents or the atmosphere. “However, we still lack a great way to combine these specific components into a holistic model,” he wrote. “AI […] can help us combine individual models into a more holistic ecosystem model.”

AI and machine learning can be used to reduce risks related to environmental, health, employee safety, and quality (EHSQ) issues, agrees David Vuong, PM analytics at Medgate. But he believes AI must be used in conjunction with predictive analysis if it is to be most effective. As AI technology advances, Vuong suggests that organizations start looking at the business issues that are most critical and the challenges that most affect an organization. Then they can specifically plan for technology that will address those issues first, he wrote in an Environmental Leader article last summer.

AI applications are already having an impact on corporate sustainability activity, but they are early stage and not particularly widespread, according to Green Biz. Still, AI in sustainability has earned a place on the world stage. In the fall, for example, experts from governments, academia, business and civil society gathered at UN Headquarters in New York, to discuss how AI and other technological advances may be harnessed to achieve sustainable development.

Image credit: Justin Aptaker, Flickr Creative Commons


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