Elon Musk – you know, the guy pushing for self-driving electric cars and reusable rocket ships – would likely be the last person on earth we would dare call a Luddite. But the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) apparently feels otherwise. The organization gives out the ignoble Luddite Awards each year, and this year's list of nominees includes the Tesla founder. Why? Because he's worried about AI.

Earlier this year, Musk signed an open letter warning of the dangers of artificial intelligence. Alongside his and a thousand other signatures were those of such scientific and technological luminaries as Professor Stephen Hawking and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. The letter cites the potential benefits of AI, but also warns against potential pitfalls that could leave such developments beyond the reach of human control. Musk also serves as co-chairman of OpenAI, a research company backed by a billion-dollar endowment to encourage the responsible development of artificial intelligence to the benefit of humanity.

In identifying its top ten nominees for the award, ITIF grouped Musk with other "Alarmists Tout[ing] an Artificial Intelligence Apocalypse," likening such warnings to fantastical blockbuster sensations like Ex Machina, Terminator: Genisys, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Other nominees include those warning against "killer robots," states banning automatic license plate readers, governments favoring taxi drivers of car-sharing services, California's veto of RFID tags on driver's licenses, and states limiting the use of red-light cameras. In the foundation's view, these all represent the work of Luddites.

The term, for those unfamiliar, refers to Ned Ludd, a 19th-century Englishman who led a movement to destroy mechanized fabric looms, fearing that they would take their jobs. Whether Ludd and his contemporaries were right or wrong, categorizing Musk – never mind Hawking, Wozniak, and the others – as opposed to technological progress strikes us as a little far-fetched, to say the least. He is, after all, a driving force in electric transportation, patron of private space exploration, pioneer of electronic banking, advocate of solar power, and impetus for the development of high-speed tube railways.


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