WASHINGTON – If you don’t think real-life Terminators, invincible robots powered by artificial intelligence, are coming in the near future, says billionaire Mark Cuban, “You’re crazy!”
The star of the ABC reality show “Shark Tank” and the owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team says he’s certain about it and sees it as a national security threat of the highest order.
He’s warning that the U.S. government needs to be pre-eminent in artificial intelligence research or prepare to be conquered by the country that is.
He has previously warned that the U.S. cannot allow countries like China or Russia to pull ahead in terms of developing artificial intelligence, noting that China’s government has said publicly it plans to be the global leader in AI by 2030, while Russian President Vladimir Putin has been even more blunt: “The one who becomes the leader in this sphere will be the ruler of the world.”
Speaking last week to high school students at the High School Leadership Summit Turning Point USA event in Washington D.C., Cuban has this to say: “Let me scare the s— out of you, all right. If you don’t think by the time most of you are in your mid-40s that a Terminator will appear, you’re crazy.”
Cuban says the Defense Department is just beginning to understand the implications of AI, “but as a country, the administration, is barely even acknowledging that it is an issue.
“That is an investment that has to come from government,” he says. “We can’t do enough independently with independent entrepreneurs because – trust me. I understand AI. And it is bigger than what any individual company can do because Google, Microsoft, etc. aren’t worried about defense applications. They are worried about making more money and they are using it to make more money.”
The only thing holding back the development of a Terminator-like weapon right now, he says, is the lack of sufficient power supplies.
“Now, this may sound crazy for a lot of people, but the idea of autonomous weaponry in a mobile device run by a remote to power device is going to happen,” says Cuban. “I want it to be ours. And I want to be able to know that the government is in position to defend against autonomous weaponry. That has to be done by the government. That’s the same approach we have. Because it is such a big issue.”
Cuban’s fears are similar in scope to that of another high-profile tech entrepreneur and billionaire, Elon Musk. The Tesla and SpaceX boss has said that artificial intelligence is both “far more dangerous than nukes” and poses “vastly more risk than North Korea.”
“The future of warfare is on, built around, through, up and down artificial intelligence,” Cuban said. “If we don’t win that war, the next generation that are sitting here having this conversation for the next generation of high-school kids? It is going to be, how are we going to catch up? That’s why we need to invest,” Cuban says. “I think we are truly at threat from autonomous weapons unless as a nation we either come to agreements with other nations on this – and we have the ability to monitor them, you know, trust but verify – but as big a threat as nuclear is, AI is even bigger.”
While it may still sound like science fiction, Cuban says he is sure the technology for autonomous robots will become commonplace.
“We already have the ability to have weapons think,” Cuban says. “There is already the ability for autonomous weapons and they are only going to go further, further, further as processors get more advanced. Once we solve the [portable] battery problem, so these Terminators can be out in the field for an extended period of time. … If we don’t win that battle, this world is upside down. That’s what scares the s— out of me.”
Artificial intelligence won’t just change the way war is waged. It will change the job market, too, Cuban said, echoing others preparing for the day of reckoning when most jobs are filled by them.
“Literally, who you work for, how you work, the type of work you do is going to be completely different than your parents within the next 10 to 15 years,” Cuban says. “Even if you have no interest in computers, no interest in programming, it doesn’t matter. Just like you laugh at your parents who might or might not understand Snapchat and Instagram and Twitter and the like, you are going to have to understand AI or people are going to laugh at you.”