When children see a scary movie, it’s a parent’s job to reassure them: “Everything’s okay, it was just a movie. There is no freaky clown who’s going to choke you and drag you under your bed.” When you’re older, you’re not supposed to be so easily frightened by the things you see in the movies—but even when there are unsettling, apocalyptic onscreen developments, it never hurts to have some genius scientist point out the flaws in the nightmarish logic.
For example, The Terminator envisions a horrifying scenario where artificial intelligence turns on mankind and nukes the planet. It’s always haunted me, especially the scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day where Linda Hamilton envisions being obliterated by the atomic blast at the school playground.
Fortunately, we have Elon Musk—the dashing inventor and entrepreneur behind Tesla electric cars and SpaceX efforts to send man to Mars—to poke holes in James Cameron’s science fiction. Last night on CNBC’s Closing Bell, he told Kelly Evans and Julia Boorstin that he had invested heavily in Vicarious, an A.I. company that was working to map and recreate the human brain. He’s not even in it for the money, he said.
What a humanist! I thought. Do go on, sir.
“I like to just keep an eye on what’s going on with artificial intelligence. I think there is potentially a dangerous outcome there and we need to—”
What do you mean by dangerous outcome? Like, The Terminator?
“Potentially, yes. I mean, there have been movies about this, you know, like Terminator,” he said.
Are you kidding me?
“There are some scary outcomes,” said Musk. “And we should try to make sure the outcomes are good, not bad.”
Evans then tried to bring the conversation to a close by tying the Terminator doomsday scenario to a mission to Mars, which Musk had discussed earlier. “Or escape to Mars if there is no other option,” she said. Ha, ha.
“The A.I. will chase us there pretty quickly,” Musk said coldly, before saying goodnight and switching off my bedroom light, leaving my unblinking eyes wide with terror.
Why, Elon Musk? Or shall I call you Douglas Quaid? You’re mixing your Arnold movies to harrowing effect. I need to build a time machine.