Future of Life Institute awards $7M to explore artificial intelligence risks

Terminator Genisys film will distract from the real issues posed by future AI, says Tegmark
July 1, 2015

Elon Musk (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) announced today (July 1) the selection of 37 research teams around the world to which it plans to award about $7 million from Elon Musk and the Open Philanthropy Project for a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

The grants were funded by part of Musk’s $10 million donation to the group in January and $1.2 million from the Open Philanthropy Project.

The winning teams, chosen from nearly 300 applicants worldwide, will research a host of questions in computer science, law, policy, economics, and other fields relevant to coming advances in AI.

With Terminator Genisys, the fifth film in the Terminator series, debuting this week, organizers stressed the importance of separating fact from fiction. “The danger with the Terminator scenario isn’t that it will happen, but that it distracts from the real issues posed by future AI”, said FLI president Max Tegmark. “We’re staying focused, and the 37 teams supported by today’s grants should help solve such real issues.”

In related news, a technician was killed today (July 1) by a robot at a Volkswagen plant near Kassel, Germany, according to a report in Financial Times.

The 21 year old  technician was standing inside the safety cage when the accident occurred. “A Volkswagen spokesman said that the robot was not one of the new generation of lightweight collaborative robots that work side-by-side with workers on the production line and forgo safety cages [and that] the robot had not suffered a technical defect,” the article said.

This was not the first such incident. A 25-year-old Ford Motor assembly line worker was killed on the job in a Flat Rock, Michigan casting plant — the first recorded human death by robot, according to a 2010 Wired report.