Mars colonization may sound farfetched, but Musk is serious.
In an April 2011 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Musk said he hopes to send humans to Mars' surface within 10 to 20 years.
Then in a July 2013 interview with The Guardian, he said he'd like to fund a colony of 80,000 people on the red planet - and become a colonist himself. "The key thing for me is to develop the technology to transport large numbers of people and cargo to Mars. That's the ultimate awesome thing."
And just in a Jan. 5, 2015 "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) session on Reddit, Musk told participants his Mars Colonial transporter will be unveiled by the end of this year. "The Mars transport system will be a completely new architecture. Am hoping to present that towards the end of this year. Good thing we didn't do it sooner, as we have learned a huge amount from Falcon and Dragon." (The Dragon is a spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and, eventually, people to orbiting destinations like the International Space Station; the Falcon is a rocket that transports satellites and the Dragon spacecraft safely into orbit.)
While the Tesla Motors Inc. (Nasdaq: TSLA) founder wants to go to Mars because he loves tech and it'd be an "awesome" feat, that's not the No. 1 driving force behind his work...
You see, Musk believes colonizing Mars is the best way to prevent the extinction of humankind.
In the same 2013 interview, he stated, "There's no rush in the sense that humanity's doom is imminent; I don't think the end is nigh. But I do think we face some small risk of calamitous events. It's sort of like why you buy car or life insurance. It's not because you think you'll die tomorrow, but because you might."
But Musk has never said what he considers the biggest threat to humankind - an asteroid, a pandemic, World War III, or otherwise.
A month ago, one Redditor may have pieced it together. He examined Musk interviews, investments, and other work. And in a popular post that has drawn more than 100 comments, he pinpointed what is likely the billionaire's biggest impetus for Mars colonization.
It's a threat Elon Musk believes will endanger all of humankind "sometime within the next ten years"...
What Does Musk See Happening to Earth?
"Here's a question I'd like to ask: extinction from what? Nuclear war? Ecological collapse? Asteroid strike? Or... something else...?," a Redditor named ArmchairHacker wrote.
The Redditor went on to point out Musk recently invested big money into keeping artificial intelligence technology "friendly" toward humans. The entrepreneur donated $10 million on Jan. 15 to the Future Life Institute for the creation of a grant program.
"Here are all these leading AI researchers saying that AI safety is important," Musk said in a statement that day. "I agree with them, so I'm today committing $10M to support research aimed at keeping AI beneficial for humanity."
Prior to that recent statement, Musk invested in two AI startup firms, Vicarious on March 21, 2014, and DeepMind Technologies sometime close to its founding in 2011. The former also made investors out of Facebook Inc.'s (Nasdaq: FB) Mark Zuckerberg and actor/investor Ashton Kutcher. The latter was acquired by Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG, GOOGL) in January 2014 for $400 million.
Musk has stated he made the Vicarious/DeepMind investments "to keep an eye" on the field.
In October 2014, the billionaire told delegates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AeroAstro Centennial Symposium that developing hyper-intelligent computers is akin to "summoning the devil."
"I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence," Musk said. "I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish."
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The Redditor concluded by pointing out a coincidental time frame Musk has laid out for the AI threat and his goal to colonize Mars.
"Musk has warned that we could endanger ourselves with A.I. as early as sometime within the next ten years. Now (2015) plus ten years is 2025... The same year that Musk hopes SpaceX will be able to take astronauts to Mars," the Redditor wrote. "[In summary,] Elon Musk is determined to survive the robot apocalypse by moving to Mars."
We did not reach Musk to confirm his robot concerns, so we can't say this is indeed his goal with heading to Mars. But we can say that artificial intelligence technology is growing in popularity among tech innovators and investors...
On March 2, Money Morning Small Cap Investing Specialist Sid Riggs called AI one of his "favorite sectors right now." He said it "meets a critical demand for the future or is the future."
AI will be a money maker. So even if you - like Elon Musk - find AI dangerous, know you can also profit...
Meanwhile, like Musk said, you can "keep an eye on the field."
Tara Clarke is an Associate Editor at Money Morning. You can follow her on Twitter @TaraKateClarke.
The best way to invest in AI right now: A Jan. 28, 2014 study from the Machine Intelligence Research Institute found that as much as 10% of all computer science research is now directed toward AI development. And China has increased its robotics exports 30% each year for the last three years. Tap into the AI sector boom with these three investments Riggs calls "key exposure, with low risk"...