Photo of Shanghai by @yiranding

Elon Musk and Jack Ma’s Debate at World Artificial Intelligence Conference Shanghai August 2019

Multi-planetary, sustainability, jobs and existential threats

I decided to transcribe part of the conversation about Elon Musk and Jack Ma at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. During the debate the two seemed to at times disagree and agree, however one large disagreement was on the topic of AI Safety which I am currently writing about. Jack Ma did not believe AI would be an existential threat any time soon, and Elon Musk very much disagreed on this point. A video to the full talk is additionally linked at the bottom.

World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC)

With the theme of “Intelligent Connectivity, Infinite Possibilities”, the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) 2019. WAIC aims to become both an academic meeting highly recognised by professionals and an international event in the AI industry with global standards and influence.

Part of the conversation between Elon Musk and Jack Ma

Elon Musk: I really think China is the future it is very impressive. It is also some great progress on entrepreneurial rocket companies in China. Two of them have made orbit and that’s really hard.

Jack Ma: What new jobs will be created because of AI or has the change really started? Why do we need that many jobs? My view is that every technology revolution people start to worry, but actually we made a lot of jobs. Because of the industry revolution jobs created a lot of jobs. People will live a lot longer, life science will let people live several hundred years. The challenge is why should we have a lot of jobs? I think people should work three days a week four hours a day. The power of electricity is that we make people more time so you can go to dancing party in the evening, because of electricity people have more time. Because of artificial intelligence people will have more time enjoy being human beings. In your life, in my life I think visited probably 300 cities my father visited 30 cities and my grandfather visited only three cities. So my grandchildren will probably visit 3000 cities in his life. He is always on the Tesla travelling is always on the road, so I don’t think we need a lot of jobs… We need people to experience their lives and enjoy being human beings, so I don’t worry about the jobs a lot.

First we are going to have a lot of jobs; second we don’t need a lot of jobs; third, there’s a very interesting thing because we will be talking about life in the agriculture period the average age is like 30–35 years old. In the industry period, industrial revolution people can live 70 years. In the artificial intelligence period people can live 130 years. When people’s lives become better they don’t want to have a children. When your grand grand children are there you don’t want to do it, we need a robot to take care of the old guys. When your grand grand father says I need to work tomorrow it’s a disaster. We cannot predict the future, but we will enter into the era of people living 130 years, we have more problems coming up. Don’t worry about it we will have jobs.

Elon Musk: Yeah… I mean I think… over time AI will make jobs pointless. Probably the last jobs will be writing AI software then AI will write its own software. So I don’t know I suppose I would recommend studying engineering, physics or that kind of thing. Or working on something where people want to interact with other people. So if you work on people or engineering that’s probably a good approach. You know arbs of course, yeah. We will have to be figuring out this Neuralink situation otherwise we will be left behind. It is very important that we do this quickly. Time, we don’t have much time.

Jack Ma: We don’t have much time for what?

Elon Musk: we don’t have much time to solve the Neuralink.

Jack Ma: Uh, yeah… [disapproving sigh]

Elon Musk: If you think about technology and technology awareness. If there was a topological map of technology awareness it is mostly flat with a few short buildings and some tall spires, very tall spires, and unless you are on that very tall spire it is not obvious what the topology is.

Jack Ma: I never worry about the things I can’t solve I let other people solve it. If you can’t solve it let it be. Let’s talk about education, I am very interested in education, can we? What knowledge or skills will be useful to master the future. Do you have any advice for young professionals who want to pursue a career in AI. I don’t think we will have professionals of AI in the future. People worry about jobs, but I worry about education. The way we teach our kids is mainly designed for the industry period and I am sure the machine will be much [more] clever than human beings in the future.

How can human beings do better? Human beings should be smarter, human beings should be wiser, so how can human beings be wiser or smarter? I think that we should change the way of education, change the things. We must change the way of education. We focused on remember thing, computer can remember better than you are, you want to calculate faster, you want to run faster computer can run much faster. We need to be more creative and constructive.

How can we teach our kids to be more creative and constructive. I want to spend more time training kids on art, painting, dancing. These creative things that make people live like humans. For sure we should understand one thing that man can never make another man. Computer is another computer, computer is just a toy. Man cannot even make a mosquito. We should have more confidence, computer only has chips a man has a heart. It is from the heart the wisdom comes from. So I think in the next 10–20 years human beings of every country should focus on reforming the education system to be able to find jobs in the future live in lives they only work in three days a week four hours a day. If we do not change the education system we are in we will all be in trouble. That is my view and don’t worry about it we will change it.

Elon Musk: Try to learn as much as possible that allows you to predict the future or make the future. Saying is that the best way to predict the future is to make it. Assess whether what you are learning is enabling you to predict the future with less error are you less wrong? Can you reduce your error on your future predictions that is the way to create your education. Create the future and predict the future that include art and a lot of other things.

I would say that is the right way to think about education. Down the road with Neuralink you can just upload any subject instantly, so it would be like the Matrix. If you want to fly a helicopter, they would fly themselves, but any given skill you could just upload it instantly. Education right now is extremely low bandwidth, lecturers are the worst, really slow. Just… Try to predict the future with less error this is very hard. I don’t think it’s 99.9% [wrong referring to Jack Ma’s earlier statement]. You got to try and based on errors of your prior predictions.

Jack Ma: yeah I think just to try is very good. We should always have the confidence to try the future. Error and mistakes are the best assets of human life. When people worry about the disasters that AI is going to bring. It is not the disasters, it is the mistakes the human being makes, human beings would be able to correct the mistakes and improve themselves.

In China today we have 1'800 new babies born every year, we need to have more than that, but the best resources of the human beings are not the oil, coal or electricity: it is the human brains. How can we make sure that the machines are the toys and tools rather than the control. In my life, especially the last two years when people talk about AI and human beings being controlled by AI I never think about that I think it’s impossible.

Elon Musk: *Laughs ironically and make face gestures* (30:12)

Jack Ma: It’s impossible because human beings are different. Machines are invented by human beings and according to the science humans can never create another animal that is smarter than humans. Especially when you have so many smart people it is impossible to make another smart people.

Elon Musk: I very much disagree with that.

Jack Ma: that’s good!

Screenshot from WAIC website retrieved the 29th of August
Screenshot from WAIC website retrieved the 29th of August

→ Talk continued. Here is the full video:

This is day 87 of #500daysofAI. I am currently writing about AI Safety.




AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.

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Alex Moltzau

Alex Moltzau

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.

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