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Bravo to The Future of Life Institute’s Research Initiatives and Musk’s Investment

by Tom Austin  |  January 19, 2015  |  Comments Off on Bravo to The Future of Life Institute’s Research Initiatives and Musk’s Investment

Today, the FLI (Future of Life Institute) portal opens to proposals for funding research that aligns with the priorities they lay out in this paper.

FLI’s focus is on making AI more capable, more socially acceptable and maximizing its social benefits while minimizing the negative consequences.

While I’ve taken issue with much of the fear mongering by some about how AI could lead to the end of human life as we know it (and other hyperbole) — largely because I believe some AI proponents are greatly exaggerating what AI will be able to accomplish in the next few decades — I find FLI’s academic research priorities valuable.  

We aren’t building artificial versions of human intelligence (whatever that is) no more than airplane manufacturers build artificial versions of birds. And even if we name a plane a “blackbird,” that doesn’t mean it’s really a bird (leaking jef fuel from its titanium skin before takeoff.)

We are building machines that are smarter than ever before, machines that compliment human capabilities in a symbiotic relationship (machines are more capable than people in some areas and less capable in others; similarly people are more capable than machines in some areas and less capable than others).  

As described by FLI, research in legal and ethical issues, autonomous systems (including weapons), privacy and trust, are all very important, both short and long term. There are also more complex and decidedly non-trivial issues related to the evolution of economies and social systems, income disparity and alternative reward and support systems to deal with. (The symbiosis for some will feel more like a slow motion catastrophe to some others.)

Bravo too for Elon Musk’s contribution of 10 million US dollars to the FLI to support its research!



Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

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