Elon Musk warned of humanoid robots that “can chase you anywhere” in a conversation with Rishi Sunak to close out the Government’s artificial intelligence (AI) safety summit.
The tech billionaire, speaking to the Prime Minister after the two-day event at Bletchley Park which was attended by politicians and experts from around the world, also said the technology could bring a future where paid work is redundant.
A jacketless Mr Sunak threw softball questions to the X owner, whom he described as a “brilliant innovator and technologist”, during a 50-minute-long interview in front of an audience of business chiefs at London’s gilded Lancaster House.
Asked about his stance on AI’s impact on the workplace, Mr Musk said, “there will come a point where no job is needed” and the only reason people will work will be for their own satisfaction.
He described AI as a “a magic genie” that grants you limitless wishes that you want and will usher in an “age of abundance”.
“One of the future challenges will be how do we find meaning in life if you have a magic genie that can do everything you want?” he said.
“We won’t have universal basic income, we’ll have universal high income, so in some sense it will be somewhat of a leveller or an equaliser because really I think everyone will have access to this magic genie.”
Discussing robots, Mr Musk stressed the need of having an off-switch for humanoid versions that can chase you up the stairs.
“A humanoid robot can basically chase you anywhere,” the tech entrepreneur said in the talk, which was not broadcast live but was streamed on his social media site X later.
“It’s something we should be quite concerned about. If a robot can follow you anywhere, what if they get a software update one day, and they’re not so friendly any more?”
The Prime Minister said “we’ve all watched” movies about robots that end with the machines being switched off.
Mr Musk also said the UK “is in a strong position” on developing robots, praising Dyson in particular.
He spoke of the technology’s potential to provide “companionship”, saying it could “know you better than anyone, perhaps even yourself”.
“You will actually have a great friend,” he said, adding that one of his sons has “some learning disabilities and has trouble making friends” and “an AI friend would actually be great for him”.
The tech boss supported Mr Sunak’s controversial decision to invite China to his AI summit, saying “if they’re not participants, it’s pointless”.
He also appeared to back the UK’s approach to AI regulation, using a sporting analogy: “If you look at any sports game, there’s always a referee.”
Hours before the conversation with Mr Sunak, Mr Musk posted a picture appearing to criticise the AI safety summit.
The Tesla chief executive shared a cartoon image on his social media platform that appeared to suggest world leaders who attended the gathering were not really concerned about safety but about developing the technology first.
Mr Sunak returned to Whitehall for the conversation with the tech tycoon after wrapping up the two-day gathering held at Bletchley Park, the home of Allied codebreaking during the Second World War.
At a press conference concluding the event, he said the summit would “tip the balance in favour of humanity” after reaching an agreement with technology firms to vet their models before their release.
Asked whether his conversation with Mr Musk would not be livestreamed because Mr Sunak was worried about what the tech entrepreneur might say, the Prime Minister replied: “Elon Musk is someone who has for a long time spoken about AI … I’m delighted that he was attending and participating yesterday.”