Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday he intends to formulate a national policy regarding civil and security uses for artificial intelligence, after talking with tech billionaire and Twitter chief Elon Musk and visiting OpenAI CEO Sam Altman.
According to Netanyahu, Musk opined that Israel can become a leader in the development of artificial intelligence, but also spoke of the need to understand the dangers inherent in the technology.
Musk responded on Twitter, thanking Netanyahu for recognizing the safety risks posed to humankind by new artificial intelligence tools.
The prime minister said that in the coming days, he would convene special working groups “to deliberate on a national policy for artificial intelligence, both in the civil and security field,” asserting that Israel will become “a national power in the field of artificial intelligence.”
Both Musk and Altman are leaders in the field, which has seen sweeping advances in recent years. The release of the acclaimed ChatGPT artificial intelligence chatbot earlier this year by OpenAI, which Musk helped found, showed off the possibilities of new artificial intelligence tools and has helped drive interest in the technology, as well as concerns of the dangers it may pose.
“We are at the beginning of a new era for humanity, the era of artificial intelligence,” said Netanyahu in a video message posted to social media.
We are at the dawn of a new era for humanity, an era of artificial intelligence.
— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) June 5, 2023
“Things are changing at a dizzying pace and Israel must formulate a national policy on this issue,” he continued.
Netanyahu said he and Musk “spoke at length about two things. One — on the need for governments to understand both the opportunities and the dangers in artificial intelligence. Second — he expressed his assessment that Israel can become a significant global actor on this issue.”
Netanyahu added that Altman, who is visiting Israel, also said Israel could become a major player in the development of artificial intelligence.
Musk thanked Netanyahu for “recognizing concerns about safety of digital superintelligence, which affects all of humanity.”
Thank you for recognizing concerns about safety of digital superintelligence, which affects all of humanity
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 5, 2023
At the end of March, Musk and other key figures involved in the technology called for the development of artificial intelligence to be halted for six months, in order to better plan and manage its use.
Last week, Altman and senior officials from other AI companies warned that the technology posed a risk of extinction for humanity and that mitigating that risk should be given the same priority as pandemics and nuclear war.
Speaking in Tel Aviv, though, Altman said, “It would be a mistake to go put heavy regulation on the field right now or to try to slow down the incredible innovation.”
But he said, there is a risk of creating a “superintelligence that is not really well aligned” with society’s needs in the coming decade. He suggested the formation of a “global organization, that at the very highest end at the frontier of compute power and techniques, could have a framework to license models, to audit the safety of them, to propose tests that are required to be passed.”
Netanyahu and Musk’s warm conversation came weeks after the Foreign Ministry accused Musk of driving up antisemitic rhetoric on Twitter, after he compared Jewish philanthropist George Soros to a comic book supervillain, comments that were criticized by the Anti-Defamation League as “dangerous” and with the risk that they would “embolden extremists.”
The tweet from the Foreign Ministry’s official Twitter account said Musk’s tweet had “anti-Semitic overtones,” noting that the phrase “The Jews” had spiked Twitter’s trending topics list as a result. The tweet was swiftly disavowed by Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
Later in May, Israel’s Health Ministry criticized Musk for engaging in “fake news,” after he approvingly retweeted a far-right blog site that features conspiracy theories which had asserted that data from the ministry demonstrated not one healthy, young person had died from COVID-19.
The ministry’s tweet stated that it knows from clinicians that young healthy people did die from COVID-19 in Israel, and that data would soon be available.