Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., speaks during the GPU Technology Conference (GTC) in San Jose, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 17, 2015. Musk discussed the potential and benefits of self-driving cars. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Elon Musk

Jack Clark San Francisco

TESLA Motors chief executive Elon Musk has turned his worries about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) into an international research programme.

The Musk-backed Future of Life Institute said yesterday it had awarded about $7 million (R85.4m) to teams around the world to look at the risks and opportunities posed by the development of AI. The grants were funded by part of Musk’s $10m donation to the group in January and $1.2m from the Open Philanthropy Project.

“There is this race going on between the growing power of the technology and the growing wisdom with which we manage it,” said Max Tegmark, the president of the Boston-based institute. “So far all the investments have been about making the systems more intelligent, this is the first time there’s been an investment in the other.”

More than 300 groups applied for the grants given to 37 research projects. Winners included groups from Carnegie-Mellon University, Stanford University and a new AI centre at Oxford-Cambridge universities in the UK, the institute said. Many of the projects focus on better modeling of the decision-making processes that go on within the brains of AI systems, and have titles such as: “understanding when a deep network is going to be wrong”, and “how to build ethics into robust artificial intelligence”.

Musk, Stephen Hawking and other public intellectuals are concerned that AI systems are developing faster than a regulatory framework to ensure they do not wipe out the human race.

Risks to humans

“With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon,” Musk, also the chief executive of Space Exploration Technologies, said in October.

The research should help provide a clearer idea of how humans and AI could work together, such as outlining the ways a financial AI program could explain its suggestion for an innovative investment strategy, Tegmark said.

“This week Terminator Genisys is coming out and that’s such a great reminder of what we should not worry about,” Tegmark said.

The funds will begin to be paid this August and will be gradually dispersed over three years. As the projects produce research, Tegmark hopes to garner other sources of funding to create a follow-up programme. – Bloomberg