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Israeli Prime Minister Urges Swift Adaptation to ‘AI Revolution’ as Time Slips Away

Benjamin Netanyahu said there needs to be a way to ‘police the planet’ to keep rogue actors in check.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that humanity is “so far behind the curve” on addressing the risks of artificial intelligence and that the time to get ahead of those concerns is almost up.

Discussing the topic live on X, formerly known as Twitter, with the platform’s owner Elon Musk, Mr. Netanyahu said: “It took us, you know, centuries at least to adapt to the Agricultural Revolution. It took us maybe a century to adapt to the Industrial Revolution. We may have just but a few years and then we’re running out, as we speak, to adapt to the AI Revolution.”

The prime minister noted how in other areas, like the economy, he was able model his country’s approach after that of other nations, like the United States. But when it comes to AI, he said, “there’s really no one to look at.”

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“What does a democratic country do? How does it cooperate with other democracies? How does it get a handle on this?” he asked.

“I think this is the single most important development in our lifetime, and in many ways, perhaps in history,” he added. “We don’t have much time to deal with shaping. That is really my greatest interest for my country—but not only for my country, for everyone.”

Blessings and Curses

While Mr. Netanyahu acknowledged that the potential blessings of AI for humanity could be great, he stressed that there were also “curses” attached to the powerful technology.

“The curse could be manifold. It could be the disruption of democracy, the interference, the manipulation of minds, crime syndicates, AI-driven wars that go uncontrollable … the stuff of science fiction,” he noted, questioning how such outcomes could be deterred.

Mr. Musk, a co-founder of OpenAI, has often shared the same concern that AI has the potential for either the advancement of civilization or destruction of it, depending on how it’s wielded.

Last week, the tech billionaire attended a closed-door Senate forum with other industry leaders to discuss how the AI field might be regulated. Touching on that topic on Monday, he said he thought the creation of an AI regulatory agency would be a good place to start.

“You start off with a team that gathers insight to get maximum understanding, then you have some proposed rulemaking, and then, eventually, you have regulations that are put in place,” he said.

“What game doesn’t have a referee?” he added. “You need someone to make sure that people are playing fairly, not breaking the rules.”

However, Mr. Musk noted that one question he is often asked is whether he thinks China would comply with such regulations, and in his view, he said China seemed to take the matter “very seriously.”

“When I was in China a few months ago, meeting with some of the senior leadership, my primary topic was AI safety and regulation,” he said. “And they, after we had a long discussion, agreed that there’s merit to AI regulation and immediately took action in this regard.”

The Chinese Communist Party, he reasoned, “prefers to be in charge” of China, and the concept of ceding that power to digital superintelligence is “not something that appeals to them.”

Even so, Mr. Netanyahu stressed that there would need to be a code of conduct and some way to “police the planet” to keep rogue actors in check.


Other topics addressed during the conversation included free speech and anti-Semitism on X, an issue Mr. Netanyahu asked Mr. Musk to address “within the confines of the First Amendment.”

“I encourage you and urge you to find the balance. It’s a tough one,” the prime minister said.

In taking over Twitter late last year and transforming it into X, Mr. Musk evolved the platform from one largely viewed as hostile to free speech to one that embraces it, with the caveat that disfavored speech will have limited visibility.

The new policy has been criticized by those on the left, who say it has allowed hate speech and anti-Semitism to flourish on X. Mr. Musk, however, stressed that of the hundreds of millions of posts per day on the website, at least “some of those are going to be bad.”

“Obviously, I’m against anti-Semitism,” he added. “I’m against anti, really, anything … that promotes hate and conflict. And I’m in favor of that which helps a bold society and takes us to a better future for humanity collectively.”

Following the interview in California, Mr. Netanyahu will head to New York, where he will address the United Nations General Assembly and meet with President Joe Biden and other world leaders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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