Financial TimesFinancial Times

Beware Elon Musk’s warped libertarianism

By Edward Luce

24 May 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The FT's Edward Luce argues that we should not grant billionaire libertarians like Elon Musk unchecked control over AI technology that could have far-reaching consequences for our society.

Future generations might say that the big event of 2023 was when Elon Musk thought of TruthGPT — the “maximum truth-seeking AI” he plans to launch. Musk is many things — brilliant engineer, massive risk-taker, overgrown adolescent. One thing he is not is someone who can be trusted with a technology that could assume God-like influence over our lives. Nor is anyone for that matter. But the point about billionaire libertarians is that they have the money to do whatever they want.

There are roughly eight billion reasons why the rest of humanity should find that disquieting. We could start with the most basic: American libertarians should rarely be taken at face value. They generally share two characteristics. The first is that they are rich. It is as rare to find an impoverished libertarian as it is to find a wealthy socialist. The second reason is that their libertarianism rarely stretches beyond their personal freedoms, especially the liberty not to be taxed. Other people’s freedom is their own lookout.

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