Elon Musk Nominated for Luddite Award Over “Alarmist” Views on AI

Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder Elon Musk has had a fine year, capped off with the first successful Earth landing from space of one of his Falcon 9 rockets. The billionaire entrepreneur is being recognised for a less distinguished honour, however, with a nomination for this year’s Luddite Award.

A luddite, named to 19th Century loom saboteur Ned Ludd, is someone who seeks to suppress technological innovation. So, how can Musk, who has pioneered the electric car and launched the world’s most successful private astronautics endeavour, be accused of holding back innovation? For years now, Musk has been vocal about the dangers of emerging artificial intelligence, describing it as “our biggest existential threat” and “more dangerous than nukes”. Bill Gates and Professor Stephen Hawking have also been included in the nomination for holding similar views on AI.

The Luddite Award is an annual prize hosted by US thinktank, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

“In his book Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Oxford professor Nick Bostrom reflected the general fear that ‘superintelligence’ in machines could outperform ‘the best human minds in every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills’. He argues that artificial intelligence will advance to a point where its goals are no longer compatible with that of humans and, as a result, superintelligent machines will seek to enslave or exterminate us,” the IFIT’s nomination list reads [PDF]. “Most of us are rightly amazed at AI applications like IBM’s Watson, our Nest thermostat that learns, and other learning devices. But to say that these devices and systems will be smart enough to take over the world is to misunderstand what AI is and where it stands today.”

The nomination comes at an odd time, not long after a new AI initiative, OpenAI, launched with the financial support of Musk.

Image courtesy of Business Insider.

Australia’s Philistine Prime Minister Doesn’t Take Coding Seriously

Bill Shorten, the leader of Australia’s opposition Labor, last week announced that should his party win government it would introduce coding and digital technologies lessons into primary schools as a “national priority”. “Coding is the literacy of the 21st century,” Shorten said. “Under Labor, every young Australian will have the chance to read, write and work with the global language of the digital age.”

Earlier today, Australia’s current Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, was asked by Shorten whether he supported plans to teach kids to code. Abbott responded by mocking the idea, bizarrely conflating teaching children a skill with forcing them into work:

“Let’s just understand exactly what the Leader of the Opposition has asked. He said that he wants primary school kids to be taught coding so they can get the jobs of the future. Does he want to send them all out to work at the age of 11? Is that what he wants to do? Seriously? Seriously?”

Obviously not. Who would take plans to teach children a valuable modern skill and equate that with child labour? But Abbott’s incredulity stems from an overt hostility towards information technology, an opinion that he has expressed before. This is what Abbott had to say about social media:

“I’ll leave social media to its own devices. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings.”

It’s astonishing that such a Luddite has risen to a position of power in one of the largest mixed market economies in the world. I wonder how Abbott thinks that wealth is sustained.

Thank you CodeHire, ITNews, and The Age for providing us with this information.