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Elon Musk says AI has no 'use' at SpaceX — at least for now

Hannah Getahun,Katherine Tangalakis-Lippert   

Elon Musk says AI has no 'use' at SpaceX — at least for now
  • Elon Musk revealed that SpaceX "basically uses no AI."
  • The SpaceX CEO said that although he's open to using it, he hasn't found a use for it yet.

Elon Musk is not planning on recreating "2001: A Space Odyssey" anytime soon.

Musk, who answered questions during 27th annual Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday, spent a sizable portion of his talk extolling the benefits of artificial intelligence. At one point, he said a "truth-seeking" AI could "foster human civilization" when asked about the role the technology would play in human's everyday lives.

But when asked whether AI could "accelerate" his efforts in space exploration, he seemed less excited about the technology.

"Can AI accelerate your efforts in space? How do you see it helping you in what you're trying to achieve?" financier Michael Milken, who moderated the talk, asked.

"I mean, oddly enough, one of the areas where there's almost no AI used is space exploration," Musk replied. "So SpaceX uses basically no AI, Starlink does not use AI. I'm not against using it. We haven't seen a use for it."

Musk continued, saying that he's been testing improved AI language models by asking them questions about space — and the results have been disappointing.

"With any given variant of or improvements in AI, I mean, I'll ask it questions about the Fermi paradox, about rocket engine design, about electrochemistry — and so far, the AI has been terrible at all those questions," Musk said, referencing the paradox that asks why we haven't come across alien life despite the high likelihood it exists in the universe. "So, there's still a long way to go."

Musk is still reaching for the AI stars

Though he expressed some skepticism about AI for space exploration, Musk has still invested heavily in the development of artificial intelligence through his startup company, xAI, a project that aims to use the tech "to accelerate human scientific discovery," according to its website. Musk has previously predicted AI will outsmart humans by the end of 2026.

At his other companies, AI use is much more integrated. At X, Musk integrated his AI chatbot Grok — similar to ChatGPT — into the social media platform. Musk also considered using AI to help summarize news on the site.

And at Tesla, Musk hopes to build a sentient labor robot called Optimus — though for his cars, he's paused AI development because he did not hold 25% stake in the company. The billionaire said it would allow him more control over the direction of AI at the company.

"If I have 25%, it means I am influential, but can be overridden if twice as many shareholders vote against me vs for me. At 15% or lower, the for/against ratio to override me makes a takeover by dubious interests too easy," he said on X.

He has also expressed wariness about potential risks to humanity and society that AI could bring about, including the spread of misinformation and widespread automation of jobs. The tech billionaire also believed there was a small chance that a super-intelligent AI could save humanity — or end it.

"I think there's some chance that it will end humanity. I probably agree with Geoff Hinton that it's about 10% or 20% or something like that," Musk said, speaking in a "Great AI Debate" seminar at the four-day Abundance Summit in March.

But, he added we should take the risk anyway, saying: "I think that the probable positive scenario outweighs the negative scenario."

Representatives for Musk and the Milken Institute did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Business Insider.

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