Mark Zuckerberg has a ‘limited’ understanding of AI, says Elon Musk

Posted: 25 July 2017 | By Charlie Moloney

Mark Zuckerberg has slammed commentators like Elon Musk as “negative” and “irresponsible” for trying to drum up “doomsday scenarios” about artificial intelligence (AI), in a live streamed Facebook Q&A which he hosted yesterday.

The ‘battle of the billionaires’ became official when Musk responded in an inflammatory post on Twitter, stating that “I’ve talked to Mark about [AI]. His understanding of the subject is limited”. But who was in the right?

Let’s look at what happened

Zuckerberg was slow cooking some meats in his back garden when he responded to the following message from his live stream audience: “I watched a recent interview with Elon Musk, and his largest fear for the future was AI. What are your thoughts on AI, and how it could affect the world?”

The Facebook founder said he is overwhelmingly optimistic about AI, which he feels will make life-changing healthcare and safety innovations a reality, and finds it “really questionable” when somebody (i.e. Elon Musk) calls for a slower pace of AI development. “I just don’t see how in good conscience some people can do that”, Zuckerberg added.

Musk has become a lightning rod of AI controversy after announcing that AI is the single greatest threat to humanity. He has said that “with artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon”. Musk sees Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), a machine with human-level intelligence, as humanity’s future nemesis.

AGI, according to Musk, could reduce humans to the status of ‘house-cat’. To prevent this catastophe he has launched a non-profit, AI research initiative, Open AI, dedicated to ensuring that AGIs are developed in a responsible manner.

Musk and Zuckerberg are both part of a $40 billion investment into an AI company called Vicarious in 2014, whose mission statement is in fact to create an AGI.

What’s up with Elon?

Elon Musk has acquired a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Status among certain AI circles, where he is accused of confusing the public about new technologies, a sentiment summed up by Pedro Domingos, a machine learning (ML) researcher and author, in a one word Tweet: “sigh”.

Elon Musk has acquired a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Status among certain AI circles

But Elon Musk is not the only harbinger of doom, as Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, the ‘oracle of Chinese tech’ demonstrated in a think piece for the New York Times, where he said that AI will lead to “enormous wealth concentrated in relatively few hands”, “enormous numbers of people out of work”, and “unprecedented economic inequalities”.

In his polemic published this June, Lee suggests that the AI revolution is unlike technological revolutions before it, as it “is not taking certain jobs…and replacing them with other jobs”.

Lee said that “Bank tellers, customer service representatives, telemarketers, stock and bond traders”, “paralegals and radiologists”, “factory workers, construction workers, drivers, delivery workers”, and more will be redundant.

Click here for more views on what the future of AI will bring, in our special AI report

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