May 6, 2024 - Business

Musk: SpaceX, Starlink use "basically" no AI

Photo Illustration of Elon Musk with his head open and containing a cybertruck, tesla, a circular roadway, a spacex rocket, the twitter logo, a shooting star and gigacasting equiptment

Photo Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios. Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Elon Musk's space company SpaceX uses "basically no AI," he said Monday night at the Milken Global Conference in Los Angeles.

What they're saying: Though Musk thinks more than 99% of all intelligence will "eventually" be "digital" instead of "biological," current versions of artificial intelligence systems haven't proved useful for SpaceX's needs, Musk told interviewer Michael Milken onstage.

  • "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. So there's still a long way to go."
  • Even Starlink, the company's internet satellite business and primary driver of SpaceX's valuation, "does not use AI," Musk said.
  • "I'm not against using it. Just, we haven't seen a use for it."

The big picture: Since the launch of ChatGPT, companies big and small have rushed to prove they can harness generative AI, and Musk has pushed its deployment both on the X social network and through his new X.ai startup.

  • Tesla's autos use more conventional AI extensively in various still-evolving, and controversial, driver assistance features.
  • Musk was not asked about Tesla, nor did he bring it up, at Monday's event.

One fun thing: When asked to respond to an audience question about what gives him joy, Musk responded: "I probably get the most joy from my kids."

  • Asked what keeps him up at night, Musk said "anything that's a civilizational risk," which includes plummeting birth rates and "anything that undermines the foundations of democracy in America or elsewhere" as well as "anything that's leading us away from a merit-based system."
  • "I listen to podcasts about the fall of civilizations to fall asleep," he said.

The intrigue: Musk doesn't know what role humans will play if his theory that digital intelligence will replace biological brains proves correct.

  • "I do think it's very important that we build the AI in a way that is beneficial to humanity," he said.
  • "The AI should not be taught to lie, it should not be taught to say things that are not true. Even if those things are politically incorrect, it should still say what it believes to be true."
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