When Elon Musk talks (or, more often, tweets) about Artificial Intelligence, the world listens. For years, the tech entrepreneur gave out foreboding warnings regarding the dangers of AI. One of his latest thoughts via Twitter encouraged everyone to read a newly-released book about how AI will change society.
Musk would also take interest in Tegmark's work as Musk donated $10 million to Tegmark's Future of Life group in 2015. Tegmark's AI security and safety promotion aligns with Musk's OpenAI project and demand for an open-forum discussion on how the world's most brilliant programmers should treat AI.
Who is Max Tegmark?
So who exactly is this man to whom Musk dedicated a portion of his very popular Twitter feed? Max Tegmark works as a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tegmark also serves as President of the Future of Life Institute, a research group from Boston that studies the global risk imposed by AI.
Tegmark once wrote: "Everything we love about civilization is a product of intelligence, so amplifying our human intelligence with artificial intelligence has the potential of helping civilization flourish like never before -- as long as we manage to keep the technology beneficial."
Yet, the rest of his Future of Life website doesn't offer a lot of promises toward A.I. Instead, Tegmark's website lays out (rather extensively) everything that could go wrong with artificial intelligence and why research safety is crucial to humanity's survival.
And the book's description is just as foreboding with a twinge of empowerment:
"How can we grow our prosperity through automation without leaving people lacking income or purpose? What career advice should we give today’s kids? How can we make future A.I. systems more robust, so that they do what we want without crashing, malfunctioning or getting hacked? Should we fear an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons? Will machines eventually outsmart us at all tasks, replacing humans on the job market and perhaps altogether? Will A.I. help life flourish like never before or give us more power than we can handle?
"What sort of future do you want? This book empowers you to join what may be the most important conversation of our time. It doesn’t shy away from the full range of viewpoints or from the most controversial issues—from superintelligence to meaning, consciousness and the ultimate physical limits on life in the cosmos."
Currently, reviews on Amazon are a favorable 4.5 out of 5 stars. You can purchase the book at a number of retailers worldwide.
Tegmark is no stranger to the best sellers list. His book Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality led to a slew of brilliant discussions and panel appearances. You can watch his talk with Google about how math makes up our world below.
Is Musk Becoming the 'Boy Who Cried Wolf'?
A growing criticism of Musk is that, at times, he -- despite his brilliance and zealous fan base -- sounds like a broken record. His eccentricities don't hide the fact that he's said the same things about AI with very little nuance: AI's are a "fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization." The same tone with each set of 140-character-long thoughts has other researchers rolling their eyes.
Francois Chollet, a researcher with Google's deep learning projects, said he doesn't see artificial intelligence creating any new issues of their own. Rather, Chollet said they "[make] a few existing threats worse."
Some researchers point out that AI actually solves the problems that humans have become too lazy to notice. Shimon Whiteson works as an associate professor at the Informatics Institute at the University of Amsterdam. In an interview with Business Insider, he said AI has the capability to move faster in solving problems than we expect.
"...I got older I got really frustrated by how slowly humanity was solving the fundamental mysteries of the universe. I thought the bottleneck here is that our brains are just too puny," he said. "It's too hard to think about these really big problems with our little brains so what we need to do is we need to augment our brains with something that will make them smarter. We need to make computers so smart that they can help us solve these big problems."