A billionaire inventor plans to build a line of artificially intelligent robots that could replace humans as physical labourers in the future.
What could go wrong?
“It’s basically going to start dealing with work that is boring, repetitive and dangerous,” Musk said at Tesla’s AI Day event on Thursday night.
The so-called Tesla Bot will stand five feet eight inches, weigh 125 pounds, and move at roughly eight kilometres per hour, which is the equivalent of a brisk walk. Each one will be capable of lifting up to 45 pounds, and will feature a display screen in place of its face — if Musk can make it a reality.
He added that the robot would be meant for doing jobs that people “least like to do,” and that physical labour would eventually become a “choice” for humans.
A concept video depicts the robot as a faceless black-and-grey humanoid. It looks vaguely like a cross between the unskinned robots from Westworld and the stick figure that appears on men’s restroom signs.
Musk said the robots would navigate using eight cameras and Tesla’s AI computer chip, which is currently used to run the car company’s smart vehicles.
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He said he hopes to have a prototype ready sometime next year, although he did not share a timeline beyond that. He also stressed that he does not want it to be “super expensive,” because he wants to see them in widespread use in the future.
Musk is well-known for making big promises about a science-fiction-like future, though he doesn’t always deliver on the hype.
His Tesla cars, for example, are currently under investigation by U.S. safety authorities after 11 collisions with emergency vehicles were linked to its Autopilot system over the last three years.
His otherworldly ambitions with SpaceX have also occasionally blown up in a series of launchpad disasters.
Nevertheless, Musk hopes to one day send humans to Mars via SpaceX, which has already developed its own reusable rockets and capsules for transporting people into orbit.
Artificial intelligence has come a long way in recent decades, but it’s still fairly limited in terms of what it can do in physical environments.
Humanoid robots remain largely the stuff of science fiction, which often portrays them as rebellious creations and killers such as the Terminator, Marvel’s Ultron and the Cylons in Battlestar Galactica.
The sci fi-loving Musk said he’s well aware of the dangers of AI, and that’s why he’s trying to design the robots with reasonable limits.
“We’re setting it such that it is at a mechanical level, a physical level, that you can run away from it,” Musk said. “And most likely overpower it.”
In other words, humanity should be able to outrun and outmuscle the robots during a Tesla-powered AI rebellion … most likely.