Elon Musk is Still a Wet Blanket on AI

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The Tesla and SpaceX CEO calls for regulation now, before it’s too late

Though one of the most progressive technocrats living, Elon Musk has long been a staunch critic of AI and the mad dash his contemporaries are engaged in to fully realize the cognitive potential of machines.

His position is making headlines again this week following an appearance at the bipartisan National Governors Association in Rhode Island last weekend. There, Musk was asked by Nevada governor Brian Sandoval if machines are going to take people’s jobs. Musk was sincere in his reply, claiming that not only will robots take jobs, but that AI is “a fundamental existential risk for human civilization;” one that far too few are taking seriously.

Musk goes on to call on government to begin regulating AI development now, before it’s too late, as it surely will be as soon as any developer crosses the cognitive uncanny valley — so to speak. But government is notoriously slow, and unless legislation is being prepared as we speak, it’s likely the AI nut will be cracked by the time ink starts drying on bills; especially considering how enamoured marketers are with the technology.

Of course, much of the powerful, sci-fi-AI that unnerves Musk still eludes marketers. He is a connoisseur of technology, and likely engages with genius developers who are pushing the boundaries of AI on a regular basis. It’s important to consider Musk’s access and exposure before taking a skeptical view on his cynicism here.

It’s equally important to remain lucid as marketing professionals and data scientists. AI and its associated cognitive computing counterparts are going to change the way marketers deal with data — and necessarily so, because of the scale and velocity of data today. For the most part, marketers aren’t yet working with the sort of AI that scares Musk.

That would be “general” AI — a system which can train itself to do anything a human can do, and more (much more). AI developments for marketing — which are quite exciting enough — fall into the category of “narrow” AI, or AI designed to overachieve in specified areas.

Think of narrow AI as making the marketer’s life easier. General AI would replace the board.

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