Experts at a congressional hearing Tuesday on the future of AI downplayed Elon Musk’s predictions for how quickly an artificial general intelligence, or AGI, could be developed.

The exchange came during a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing featuring a trio of AI experts. Each of the three said developing an AGI would take longer than Musk had predicted.

“When Chairman [Mike] Gallagher had a conversation with Elon Musk, he said that AGI was five to six years away. I was surprised by that timeline. What is your sense of how long we are from AGI?” Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., asked.

Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang argued that discussing AGI was a “distraction” from the real mission of learning how to best apply existing AI technology. The other two panelists, Global AI ethicist for DataRobot Dr. Haniyeh Mahmoudian and American Enterprise Institute senior fellow Klon Kitchen, were less kind to Musk’s prediction.

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Experts at a congressional hearing Tuesday on the future of AI downplayed Elon Musk’s predictions for how quickly an artificial general intelligence could be created. (Justin Sullivan)

“I think what we will be seeing is increasingly agile and capable foundation models, or these types of generative AI capabilities,” Kitchen told Khanna. “I would say that the timeline that was given to you of artificial general intelligence within the next five years is aspirational.”

“It is aspirational,” Mahmoudian agreed. “But what I would add to that is we are headed in that direction as we see with regard to foundation models… that can provide tasks that they were not necessarily trained on, but they can generalize to some extent.”

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Mahmoudian went on to say that the timeline for AGI was “obviously not five years.”

Ro Khanna at House hearing

Rep. Ro Khanna asked experts about how quickly they believed an artificial general intelligence would be built. (Office of Rep. Ro Khanna)

The hearing came as part of the House’s efforts to consider how AI can best be implemented into the Pentagon.

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The House last week passed a defense policy bill that strongly encourages the Pentagon to use artificial intelligence to its advantage, but also requires defense officials to examine how America’s national security infrastructure may be vulnerable to AI systems deployed by China, Russia and other adversaries.

The Pentagon building

The Pentagon is investigating ways to implement AI. (Tom Brenner/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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“DOD has to catch up,” Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y., said last week. “We have to as a government advance ourselves in an effective way to protect the American people, and we know that AI is the next platform of military interaction that can be weaponized.”

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