(OPINION) Superhuman artificial intelligence that is smarter than anyone on Earth could exist next year, Elon Musk has said, unless the sector’s power and computing demands become unsustainable before then.

The prediction is a sharp tightening of an earlier claim from the multibillionaire that superintelligent AI would exist by 2029. Whereas “superhuman” is generally defined as being more intelligent than any individual human at any specific task, superintelligent is often defined instead as being more intelligent than every human’s combined ability at any task.

“I guess that we’ll have AI that is smarter than any one human probably around the end of next year,” Musk said in a live-streamed interview on his social network X.


That prediction was made with the caveat that increasing power demands and shortages of the most powerful AI training chips could limit their capability in the near term.

“Last year it was chip-constrained,” he said. “People could not get enough Nvidia chips. This year it’s transitioning to a voltage transformer supply. In a year or two, it’s just electricity supply.”

In 2023, when he predicted a five- to six-year runway for superintelligence, Musk was vocally concerned about the ramifications. That year, he spoke alongside the launch of his AI startup, xAI: “If I could press pause on AI or really advanced AI digital superintelligence, I would. It doesn’t seem like that is realistic, so xAI is essentially going to build an AI. In a good way, sort of, hopefully.

“It’s actually important for us to worry about a Terminator future in order to avoid a Terminator future,” Musk added, referencing the film where a self-aware computer system wages war on humanity.

A year on, xAI is firmly trying to lead the development of superintelligence. In a recent interview, Musk said the latest version of its chatbot Grok AI was on par with GPT-4, the leading model from OpenAI. GPT-4 is more than a year old, and competitors have already met or exceeded its capabilities, with Anthropic’s Claude 3 Sonnet generally seen as the new market leader.