Elon Musk is warning “out of control” artificial intelligence advances could “pose profound risks to society and humanity”.

The Tesla boss, 51, who recently bought Twitter for $44 billion, issued the alert alongside more than 1,000 academics and technology industry figures in an open letter that demands “all AI labs… immediately pause” work, as well as urging governments to suspend more research if they don’t comply.

Issued amid warning AI systems such as ChatGPT may put millions of jobs at risk and lead to the spread of disinformation, Elon joined signatories including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, 72, and the head of the Doomsday Clock.

They said in their message, published by the Future of Life Institute: “Contemporary AI systems are now becoming human-competitive at general tasks, and we must ask ourselves: Should we risk loss of control of our civilisation?’

“Such decisions must not be delegated to unelected tech leaders. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”

The letter also calls for an immediate six-month pause to the “training of AI systems more powerful than GPT-4” – the upgraded version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which Microsoft researchers claim is showing “human-like intelligence”.

The open letter stopped short of calling for a total ban on AI research, with its authors writing that they “merely (want) a stepping back from the dangerous race to ever-larger unpredictable black-box models with emergent capabilities”.

It went on: “This pause should be public and verifiable, and include all key actors. If such a pause cannot be enacted quickly, governments should step in and institute a moratorium.”

Echoing the plot of James Cameron’s ‘Terminator’ film – in which AI defence system Skynet obliterates humanity in a nuclear attack after deeming it a danger – Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates, 67, said in a recent blog super-intelligent AI systems could “run out of control” and decide “humans are a threat”.