Entrepreneur-billionaire-duo Elon Musk and Jack Ma recently debated each other at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. The two discussed subjects like artificial intelligence and the future of the human race, putting forward several interesting ideas in the process.
The future of AI
Elon Musk was the most pessimistic of the two as to how artificial intelligence (AI) will impact societies. “I think generally, people underestimate the capability of AI. They sort of think like, it’s a smart human. But it’s, it’s really much — it’s going to be much more than that. It’ll be much smarter than the smartest human. It’ll be like, can a chimpanzee really understand humans? Not really, you know. We just seem like strange aliens. They mostly just care about other chimpanzees. And this will be how it is more or less in relativity,” he said (The Next Web).
According to Musk, the best way to counter the threat of AI is by “joining” them, referring to his Neuralink project that seeks to create a high bandwidth interface that connects the brain to machines, turning humans into cyborgs. He also called the human race a boot loader for artificial superintelligence. A boot loader is the tiny piece of code that is required for computers to start. Musk pointed out that the rate of technological change is so fast that it is beginning to outpace our ability to understand it.
In contrast to Musk’s doomsday scenario, Ma was more open to the possibility that AI will herald in a new chapter. He believes that people should have more confidence in themselves and pointed out that the solutions we deem non-existent today can exist in the future. He wants people to embrace AI and see it as a challenge rather than a threat. While Musk predicted mass unemployment due to AI proliferation, Ma foresees a future where people are able to avoid doing harsh, boring jobs.
“I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day… In the artificial intelligence period, people can live 120 years… At that time we are going to have a lot of jobs which nobody wants to do. So, we need artificial intelligence for the robots to take care of the old guys… So that’s my view about jobs, don’t worry about it, we will have jobs,” he stated (BBC).
Elon wants human beings to evolve into a multi-planetary species. He warned that despite our good intentions, it is possible that the human civilization existing on Earth could one day be destroyed by an internal or external force. We might even be in a situation where we go technologically backward, thereby never having the opportunity to explore space.
As such, Musk thinks that the best way to ensure that human consciousness continues to survive and expand is by using our current level of technology for space exploration and colonization. “I’m talking about less than 1 percent of Earth’s resources should be dedicated to making life multi-planetary, or making consciousness multi-planetary,” he said (Wired).
Though Ma admitted that he admired Musk for thinking so far ahead as to set up colonies on other planets, he wants people to create sustainable solutions so that life on Earth is improved. While it might be a great achievement to send 1 million people to live on Mars, Ma believes that we have to care about the 7.4 billion people currently residing on our planet.