Billionaires Jack Ma and Elon Musk debate AI

Jack Ma and Elon Musk
Jack Ma and Elon Musk discuss the peril and promise of artificial intelligence at a Shanghai AI conference. (Xinhua via YouTube)

n the debate over artificial intelligence, whose side is Elon Musk on?

Musk, who’s in charge of SpaceX, Tesla and the Neuralink brain interface venture, sized up the odds with AliBaba founder Jack Ma today during a widely watched one-on-one session at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.

The way Musk sees it, the prospects aren’t great for humans if future AI agents decide to go rogue. That’s despite pronouncements from AI researchers who say machines won’t match humans anytime soon when it comes to general intelligence, as opposed to specialized AI applications such as playing chess or Go.

“The biggest mistake I see artificial intelligence researchers making is assuming that they’re intelligent,” Musk said. “Yeah, they’re not, compared to AI. And so a lot of them cannot imagine something smarter than themselves.”

Musk said future AI agents will be “vastly smarter” than humans. “So what do you do with a situation like that?” he asked. “I’m not sure. I hope they’re nice.”

For his part, Ma saw more promise than peril in AI.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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