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September 1, 2017

Putin: Who Controls AI “Will Be Ruler of the World”


AI alarmism took on a geopolitical cast today as Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted that whoever is first to build breakthrough artificial intelligence technology will have world domination.

According to a story published by the Associated Press, Putin spoke before a meeting with students in Moscow today and warned that “the one who becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world,” adding that “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position.”

Looking ahead, Putin foresees wars of the future fought by weaponized drones: “when one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.”By “leader” and “someone” the Russian leader presumably refers to a company, country or region (such as the European Union) that achieves AI leadership. AI, he said, could offer “colossal opportunities and threats that are difficult to predict now.” Putin also promised that Russia would share its AI capabilities with other nations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

An AI dystopia of weaponized drones and other horrors appeared elsewhere in the national media this week: the Wall Street Journal published a review, “When Machines Run Amok,” of a new book by MIT physicist Max Tegmark, Life 3.0, which looks at a future in which people aren’t the smartest entities, when “a computer program will become not just intelligent but wildly so—and that we humans will find ourselves unable to do anything about it.”

Tegmark is a co-founder of the Future of Life Institute, Boston, which studies “positive ways for humanity to steer its own course considering new technologies and challenges.” Included on the institute’s scientific advisory board are Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Oxford professor Nick Boström, all of whom have voiced deep concerns about controlling machine intelligence.

The Future of Life Institute supported a study published by AI Impacts, which surveyed AI experts from around the world asking for predictions about the automation of a wide range of job skills. Their consensus: all work will be automated in 121 years (see AI End Game: The Automation of All WorkEnterpriseTech, June 28).

Weaponized drones aren’t just on Putin’s mind but on Tegmark’s as well. While he foresees great advantages AI can deliver for medicine and energy efficiency, among other things, he also worries about “an arms race involving cheap, mass-produced autonomous weapons.”

“There isn’t much difference between a drone that can deliver Amazon packages and one that can deliver bombs,” Tegmark writes, painting a fiendish picture, as stated by book reviewer Frank Rose, of “drones the size of bumblebees that could be programmed to kill certain people, or certain categories of people, by grabbing their skulls with tiny metal talons and drilling into their heads.”