Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are engaged in a very public disagreement about the nature of artificial intelligence (machines that can think) and whether it's a boon or bane to society. It's almost as interesting to follow as the Hollywood supercouple-of-the-month's divorce proceedings.
Just kidding. Let's agree that the former is relevant, the latter ridiculous.
Musk has been warning for some time now that AI is "our greatest existential threat" and that we should fear perpetuating a world where machines are smarter than humans.
It's not that he's against AI: Musk has invested in several AI companies "to keep an eye on them." He's even launched his own AI start-up, Neuralink--intended to connect the human brain with computers to someday do mind blowing things like repair cancer lesions and brain injuries (for example).
Musk fears the loss of human control if AI is not very carefully monitored.
Zuckerberg sees things very differently and is apparently frustrated by the fear-mongering. The Facebook chief has made AI a strategic priority for his company. He talks about the advances AI could make in healthcare and self-driving cars, for example.
In a recent Facebook Live session where he was answering a question about Musk's continued warning on AI, the Facebook founder responded, "I think that people who are naysayers and kind of trying to drum up these doomsday scenarios--I just, I don't understand it. I think it's really negative and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible."
Musk quickly fired back with this tweet:
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.-- Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
The debate is sure to continue to volley back and forth in a sort of Wimbledon of the Way Out There.
So, at the risk or Mr. Musk calling me out, I thought I'd try to bring it a bit closer to home so you can track better with the debate and form your own opinion. Here are some of the most commonly cited pros and cons to AI:
- It enhances efficiency, accuracy, and speed. Human error be gone.
- It's cost effective. Human labor costs be gone.
- Machines don't rest. 24-7, baby.
- Machines don't have emotions. No drama, just diligence.
- Machines can do dangerous tasks and numbingly repetitive ones. Need to spy behind enemy lines? Call in the drones! Need to drill a billion holes? Release the robot!
- Job security. Real jobs lost. Estimates range from 20 million to 40 million jobs in peril.
- Risk of "machine error" at the wrong time. How comfortable would you really be on a self-driving plane?
- Machines can't add to team building (they don't feel emotions). Kinda hard to take that microprocessor out for margaritas.
- Moral imperative. What if AI falls into the wrong hands? What if machines smarter than humans are used for trickery and evil? What if humans become "pets" to the machine as Musk has warned?
- Poor judgment calls. For example, in Sydney, Australia in 2014, a surge of Uber calls occurred as fearful passengers fled a downtown shooting drama. Fare prices spiked based on Uber's supply and demand algorithm. Doh.
So are you more of a Muskie or a Zuckerberger?
Better decide which side you lean towards. Before the machines decide for you.