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(Another 10 to 30 are on the way.)Altman, in gray T-shirt and jeans, is all wiry, pale intensity.

Musk’s fervor is masked by his diffident manner and rosy countenance.

Hassabis, a co-founder of the mysterious London laboratory Deep Mind, had come to Musk’s Space X rocket factory, outside Los Angeles, a few years ago. This did nothing to soothe Musk’s anxieties (even though he says there are scenarios where A. He told Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance, the author of the biography , that he was afraid that his friend Larry Page, a co-founder of Google and now the C. “For a meaningful partial-brain interface, I think we’re roughly four or five years away.”Musk’s alarming views on the dangers of A. She would make his eyes gray and his face more gaunt.

They were in the canteen, talking, as a massive rocket part traversed overhead. She would refashion his public demeanor to be less droll, and she would not countenance his goofy giggle.

He forges gleaming steel into sensuous Tesla electric cars with such elegant lines that even the nitpicking Steve Jobs would have been hard-pressed to find fault. When Musk visited secretary of defense Ashton Carter last summer, he mischievously tweeted that he was at the Pentagon to talk about designing a Tony Stark-style “flying metal suit.” Sitting in traffic in L. in December, getting bored and frustrated, he tweeted about creating the Boring Company to dig tunnels under the city to rescue the populace from “soul-destroying traffic.” By January, according to , Musk had assigned a senior Space X engineer to oversee the plan and had started digging his first test hole.

He wants to save time as well as humanity: he dreamed up the Hyperloop, an electromagnetic bullet train in a tube, which may one day whoosh travelers between L. His sometimes quixotic efforts to save the world have inspired a parody twitter account, “Bored Elon Musk,” where a faux Musk spouts off wacky ideas such as “Oxford commas as a service” and “bunches of bananas genetically engineered” so that the bananas ripen one at a time. Some Space X rockets have blown up, and last May a driver was killed in a self-driving Tesla whose sensors failed to notice the tractor-trailer crossing its path.

I sat down with the two men when their new venture had only a handful of young engineers and a makeshift office, an apartment in San Francisco’s Mission District that belongs to Greg Brockman, Open AI’s 28-year-old co-founder and chief technology officer.

When I went back recently, to talk with Brockman and Ilya Sutskever, the company’s 30-year-old research director (and also a co-founder), Open AI had moved into an airy office nearby with a robot, the usual complement of snacks, and 50 full-time employees.

for targeted advertising, photo tagging, and curated news feeds. Google’s search engine from the beginning has been dependent on A. All of these small advances are part of the chase to eventually create flexible, self-teaching A. that will mirror human learning., featuring a malevolent scientist who creates a doomsday device to achieve world domination. was probably humanity’s “biggest existential threat.” He added that he was increasingly inclined to think there should be some national or international regulatory oversight—anathema to Silicon Valley—“to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” He went on: “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon. engineers found Musk’s theatricality so absurdly amusing that they began echoing it.Elon Musk is famous for his futuristic gambles, but Silicon Valley’s latest rush to embrace artificial intelligence scares him. Inside his efforts to influence the rapidly advancing field and its proponents, and to save humanity from machine-learning overlords. is rapidly developing but still far from the powerful, self-evolving software that haunts Musk. Peter Thiel, the billionaire venture capitalist and Donald Trump adviser who co-founded Pay Pal with Musk and others—and who in December helped gather skeptical Silicon Valley titans, including Musk, for a meeting with the president-elect—told me a story about an investor in Deep Mind who joked as he left a meeting that he ought to shoot Hassabis on the spot, because it was the last chance to save the human race. It probably hadn’t eased his mind when one of Hassabis’s partners in Deep Mind, Shane Legg, stated flatly, “I think human extinction will probably occur, and technology will likely play a part in this.”Before Deep Mind was gobbled up by Google, in 2014, as part of its A. shopping spree, Musk had been an investor in the company. You know all those stories where there’s the guy with the pentagram and the holy water and he’s like, yeah, he’s sure he can control the demon? When they would return to the lab after a break, they’d say, “O.It was just a friendly little argument about the fate of humanity. Elon Musk began warning about the possibility of A. He told me that his involvement was not about a return on his money but rather to keep a wary eye on the arc of A. K., let’s get back to work summoning.”Musk wasn’t laughing. Elon Musk smiled when I mentioned to him that he comes across as something of an Ayn Rand-ian hero.Demis Hassabis, a leading creator of advanced artificial intelligence, was chatting with Elon Musk, a leading doomsayer, about the perils of artificial intelligence. I.: “It gave me more visibility into the rate at which things were improving, and I think they’re really improving at an accelerating rate, far faster than people realize. “Elon’s crusade” (as one of his friends and fellow tech big shots calls it) against unfettered A. “I have heard that before,” he said in his slight South African accent.They are two of the most consequential and intriguing men in Silicon Valley who don’t live there. An unassuming but competitive 40-year-old, Hassabis is regarded as the Merlin who will likely help conjure our A. Mostly because in everyday life you don’t see robots walking around. But Roombas aren’t going to take over the world.”In a startling public reproach to his friends and fellow techies, Musk warned that they could be creating the means of their own destruction. of its parent company, Alphabet, could have perfectly good intentions but still “produce something evil by accident”—including, possibly, “a fleet of artificial intelligence-enhanced robots capable of destroying mankind.”At the World Government Summit in Dubai, in February, Musk again cued the scary organ music, evoking the plots of classic horror stories when he noted that “sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.” He said that the way to escape human obsolescence, in the end, may be by “having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence.” This Vulcan mind-meld could involve something called a neural lace—an injectable mesh that would literally hardwire your brain to communicate directly with computers. “Your phone and your computer are extensions of you, but the interface is through finger movements or speech, which are very slow.” With a neural lace inside your skull you would flash data from your brain, wirelessly, to your digital devices or to virtually unlimited computing power in the cloud. “She obviously has a fairly extreme set of views, but she has some good points in there.”But Ayn Rand would do some re-writes on Elon Musk.

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