'There Need to Be Things That Inspire'

Frederick Owens
March 12, 2018

Mr Musk said while the interplanetary rockets won't be capable of getting anyone to Mars in the short term, they would be able to make short test flights with a lift-off thrust twice that of a Saturn 5, the NASA rocket at the heart of the Apollo moon program.

Whether an AI-induced third World War is what drives us off the planet, he didn't say. The production of the Tesla Model 3 electric vehicle, for example, has been plagued by delays. The company is still way behind on its production targets.

Elon Musk spoke at SXSW 2018.

In the interim, though, the inaugural payload of the Falcon Heavy was Elon Musk's very own Tesla Roadster, comically "driven" by a mannequin dubbed Starman. He also speculated that "most likely, the form of government on Mars would be somewhat of a direct democracy", in which residents would vote directly on particular issues.

However optimistic the timeline, the BFR's first test flights would just be a preview of an actual crewed trip to Mars.

"AI scares the hell out of me", he said, telling Nolan that while he's not typically a fan of regulation, he feels AI is more risky than nuclear weapons and it's not like we let just anyone build nukes.

"Everyone votes on every issue and that's how it goes".

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Mr Musk said a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial resources would be needed to launch a manned mission to Mars, "because you have to build out the entire base of industry, everything that allows human civilisation to exist". "If the fourth launch had failed, we would have been dead", he said.

On a lighter note, Mr Musk said he was excited about the potential for launching new industries from a complete fresh starting point.

"Mars will need everything from iron foundries to pizza joints to nightclubs". If the utility function of artificial intelligence is to maximise happiness of humans, a super-intelligent AI might decide that the best way to do that is to capture all humans and inject their brains with dopamine and serotonin.

"AI is far more unsafe than nukes", he said, dismissing the pushback from AI experts who suggested Mr Musk was more interested in controversy than studying the work. "So why do we have no regulatory oversight?"

"Mark my words", he said, "AI is much more risky than nukes". So why do we have no regulatory oversight? (Read into that what you will, he said.) Musk wants to see the rocket take short flights up and down in the first half of next year.

The prevailing mood here, of course, is that Mr Musk is a visionary of the highest order.

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