• Dr. Timothy Smith

Ma and Musk Debating AI—The Optimist and the Pessimist

Shanghai Skyline

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In the closing days of August, two giants in the technology industry sat down to an unmoderated debate at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, China. The conversation occurred between Jack Ma is the the founder of the tech titan, Alibaba, and Elon Musk is the founder of SpaceX, the private aerospace company, Tesla, PayPal, and Neuralink. The debate covered a range of topics including human versus machine intelligence, the future of work, and new approaches to education in the age of AI. The discussion clearly differentiated the two men’s positions on AI and the future of man and machine. Below are a couple summarized highlights of the debate. I recommend, however, that you watch the rest of the debate if you want to get the full details on what was discussed.

The debate begins when Elon Musk pointed out his belief that AI will increasingly become more intelligent than people. He said, “People underestimate AI. They think of it like a really smart human, but it is really more than that. … The biggest mistake I see AI researchers making is assuming they are intelligent. They are not compared to AI.” In contrast, Jack Ma came across much more human focused. He said, “I like hearing the vision of the tech guys, I am not a tech guy. I think more about life. I think that AI will help us understand ourselves better.” Ma goes on to goes on to detail why humans will always be smarter than machines, which Musk strongly disputes.

On the subject of the future of work both men address the notion that AI will assume many of the jobs that people do today, but they differed on how AI will work with people. Ma interjected, “People should work three days a week, four hours a day.” With the help of machines people can have more time to pursue what interests them. Musk noted more gravely, “AI will take all the jobs. Eventually, AI will even write its own software.” Musk focused on the promise of computer-brain connectivity, a neuralink, that would blend humans with artificial intelligence. But he added that developing the neuralink (the focus of his company) must happen soon before computers get so smart that they just leave us behind.

In the area of education, Ma and Musk differed on the focus. Ma noted that we need to learn to be more creative and constructive, and the key to education must include teaching the arts, singing, dancing, painting. Musk on the other hand noted, “I recommend studying engineering and physics.” Interestingly, both agreed that we need more people and their creativity, and they feared a world population collapse because people just do not have enough children anymore.

In a keynote event at the 2019 Word Artificial Intelligence Conference, two titans of technology, Jack Ma of Alibaba and Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla sat down to debate a number of topics surrounding AI from human versus machine intelligence, AI impact on work and the future of education. The discussion got off to a slow start, but the men clearly differentiated themselves. Ma appeared more optimistic and focused on people and earth. In contrast, Musk came across as pessimistic and more technology focused. Musk was convinced that the machines continue their advancement and ultimately supersede us every imaginable way. While this article helps summarize some of the points brought out in the debate, I recommend watching the full video; both Musk and Ma are insanely influential people, and both of them have a unique perspective and the means to shift the world. It would be beneficial to check out how these two titans see the world. Below is the full video:

Dr. Timothy Smith

Dr. Smith’s career in scientific and information research spans the areas of bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, toxicology, and chemistry. He has published a number of peer-reviewed scientific papers. He has worked over the past seventeen years developing advanced analytics, machine learning, and knowledge management tools to enable research and support high level decision making. Tim completed his Ph.D. in Toxicology at Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from the University of Washington.

You can buy his book on Amazon in paperback and in kindle format here.

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