Science & Tech
It’s safe to say that Elon Musk has a flair for the dramatic.
The CEO of Tesla and Twitter has spoken many times over recent years about the future of the world’s population and his part in it - and he seems to think there's plenty to worry about.
If he is to be believed, then there are countless threats to the future of civilisation right under our noses and he’s on a mission to tell us all about them.
When he’s not posting memes, he seems to be delivering warnings at every turn. These are all the things that Musk has flagged as being the “biggest threat” to civilisation.
Musk seems to think there's plenty to worry about when it comes to the futureGetty Images
Artificial intelligence is all over the news in 2023, and Musk recently said that the misfiring Bing ChatGPT sounds “eerily like” an artificial intelligence that “goes haywire and kills everyone”.
It’s far from the first time that he’s made it clear he thinks AI is a threat to us all. Back in 2017, Musk has branded artificial intelligence “a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation” and that companies working on AI should slow down to ensure they don’t unintentionally build something unsafe.
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Speaking on-stage at the National Governor’s Association he said: “I have exposure to the most cutting-edge AI and I think people should be really concerned about it. I keep sounding the alarm bell but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal.
“I think we should be really concerned about AI and I think we should… AI’s a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.
He went on to say: “AI is a fundamental existential risk for human civilisation, and I don’t think people fully appreciate that.”
Turning away from fossil fuels
Musk spoke back in August 2022 and made it clear he thinks fossil fuels are still necessary in the “short-term” to keep society moving – and that switching entirely to green energy too quickly could have grave consequences.
“At this time, we actually need more oil and gas, not less,” he said at an energy conference in Norway, Bloomberg reported at the time.
He also said he didn’t want to “demonise” fossil fuels and that “we must have a clear path to a sustainable energy future”.
“Realistically I think we need to use oil and gas in the short term, because otherwise civilisation will crumble,” he added. “One of the biggest challenges the world has ever faced is the transition to sustainable energy and to a sustainable economy. That will take some decades to complete.”
Not moving to Mars
Is there life on Mars, or could there be soon?Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images
Musk will speak about his ambitions to travel to Mars to anyone who’ll listen, and while taking a rocket to the Red Planet sounds like exactly the sort of thing a bored billionaire would do, he thinks it could save the future of the human race.
Speaking back in 2021, Musk stated that humans could face extinction if we do not explore moving to Mars soon and become a multi-planetary species.
“In order for life to become multi-planetary, we’ll need maybe 1,000 ships, or something like that,” Musk said during an event with the US National Academy of Sciences.
“Long term, it’s essential for preserving the light of consciousness. Eventually something will happen to Earth, hopefully not soon, either natural or man-made that would cause the end of civilisation. The probable lifespan of civilisation is much greater if we’re a multi-planet species.”
\u201cIs TikTok destroying civilization? Some people think so.\u201d— Elon Musk (@Elon Musk) 1655513824
Musk turned his attention to video-sharing app TikTok in 2022, following a report that employees of its Chinese parent company Bytedance have accessed private data from US users.
Tweeting as he was pressing on with his $44bn purchase of Twitter, he wrote: “Is TikTok destroying civilization? Some people think so. Or perhaps social media in general.”
Is population collapse a problem?Getty images
If there’s one thing Elon Musk does on Twitter even more often than posting dodgy memes, it’s talking about ‘population collapse’.
The Tesla CEO and billionaire has been very vocal over recent times about the threat of a reduction in the human population size.
“We should be much more worried about population collapse… if there aren’t enough people for Earth, then there definitely won’t be enough for Mars,” Musk wrote in a tweet earlier this year.
"USA birth rate has been below min sustainable levels for ~50 years. (The) past two years have been a demographic disaster," he also posted.
Musk has described population collapse as his biggest fear, claiming that low birth rates would lead to the collapse of “civilisation”. He’s also joked that he’s doing his part to get the population numbers, with nine known children of his own.
It might not be such a cause for concern though. Musk and others might claim it’s a real issue, but the latest developments have seen the claims about the so-called “population collapse” debunked – and labelled as coming “from outer space”.
It comes after a UK-based non-profit focused on population research and environment sustainability group, Population Matters, looked into the claims made by Musk in a report.
Population Matters director Robin Maynard said that Musk’s “underpopulation crisis” theory was “reckless, flawed and potentially harmful”.
“Elon Musk’s claims on population range from the just-about-grounded-in-reality to floating free in outer space,” said Maynard. “It would be easy to laugh them off, if he didn’t have 100 million Twitter followers and a stratospheric media profile lending them spurious credibility”.
Him not buying Twitter
Musk, it seems, also believes that he was doing his bit to save the world when he bought Twitter.
“I can’t exactly say why,” he told listeners in an online chat last year, “it’s just that my biological neural net said it is important to buy Twitter… that if Twitter were not bought and steered in a good direction, it would be a danger for the future of civilisation.”
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