Elon Musk donates $10M to ‘keep AI beneficial’

January 15, 2015

Elon Musk has decided to donate $10M to the Future of Life Institute (FLI) to run a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

Musk, who warned last August that “we need to be super careful with AI. Potentially more dangerous than nukes,” said there is now a “broad consensus that AI research is progressing steadily, and that its impact on society is likely to increase.”

A long list of leading AI-researchers have signed an open letter issued by FLI calling for research aimed at ensuring that AI systems are robust and beneficial, doing what we want them to do.

“It’s wonderful, because this will provide the impetus to jump-start research on AI safety”, said AAAI president Tom Dietterich. ”This addresses several fundamental questions in AI research that deserve much more funding than even this donation will provide.”

The $10M program will be administered by the Future of Life Institute, a non-profit organization whose scientific advisory board includes AI-researchers Stuart Russell and Francesca Rossi. ”I love technology, because it’s what’s made 2015 better than the stone age,” says MIT professor and FLI president Max Tegmark. ”Our organization studies how we can maximize the benefits of future technologies while avoiding potential pitfalls.”

FLI’s scientific advisory board also includes Nick Bostrom, Director, Oxford Future of Humanity Institute; Erik Brynjolfsson, Director, MIT Center for Digital Business, MIT; George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard University; Alan Guth, Professor of Physics, MIT; Christof Koch, Chief Scientific Officer, Allen Institute for Brain Science; and Martin Rees, Emeritus Professor of Cosmology & Astrophysics, Cambridge University.

The research supported by the program will be carried out around the globe via an open grants competition, through an application portal that will open by Monday January 19. The plan is to award the majority of the grant funds to AI researchers, and the remainder to AI-related research involving other fields such as economics, law, ethics and policy (a detailed list of examples can be found here).

Along with research grants, the program will include meetings and outreach programs aimed at bringing together academic AI researchers, industry AI developers, and other key constituents to continue exploring how to maximize the societal benefits of AI; one such meeting was held in Puerto Rico last week with many of the open-letter signatories.