Elon Musk, the billionaire PayPal founder, has donated millions of dollars to ensure the machines don’t get too big for their boots and turn against us.

The former SpaceX CEO announced yesterday that he is donating $10 million (£6.5 million) to the Future of Life Institute (FLI) to help it run a global research programme aimed at keeping AI “beneficial to humanity”.

Elon Musk is concerned that robots and computers become dangerously intelligent ©Flickr OnInnovation
Elon Musk is concerned that robots and computers become dangerously intelligent ©Flickr OnInnovation

Earlier this week, the man behind the "wacky" Hyperloop transport concept signed an open letter warning against the dangers of uncontrolled development of AI. Other signatories included Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s greatest scientists, and the founders of Google-acquired AI startup, DeepMind.

Musk said: “Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important. I agree with them, so I’m today committing $10 million to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity.”

The funding will go towards AI research projects around the world that support the FLI’s mission. Beyond scientific research, the money will also be used to fund research in areas likes economics, law, ethics and policy.

The Future of Life portal will open on Monday, allowing academic, industrial and individual researchers to apply for grants to the programme.

Last month Hawking told the BBC: "The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

"It would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate," he said. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded." 

AI technology is already built into devices we use in our everyday lives. For example, Siri, an intelligent personal assistant that sits inside iPhones and iPads is underpinned by AI developed by Apple, while Google's self-driving vehicles also rely heavily on AI. According to the FT, more than 150 startups in Silicon Valley are working on AI today.