Musk and Ma debate at World AI Conference in Shanghai

By Paramjeet Singh Berwal

Yesterday, on August 29, 2019, the most awaited debate between Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, and Alibaba Chairman, Jack Ma, took place at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. Though Ma sounded very optimistic and normative about implications AI will have on human future, Musk presented very pragmatic and reasonable prognosis.

According to Ma, human beings need not be scared of clever tools like computers that they have created and (referring to AI) will keep on creating. However, Musk is of the opinion that AI will be more intelligent than humans, and humans should not overestimate their own smartness.

Musk’s comments on the future of work were on the lines of what only a few scholars have been talking about. According to him, “AI will make jobs kind of pointless”.  The same resonates with what I have been continuously propounding. The jobs that will be created to make people earn money (universal basic income and guaranteed employment!), for there is no other way to sustain the current economic system, will not afford satisfaction and meaning in life to workers. Ma, on the other hand, reiterated the popular argument that new jobs will be created.

Ma raised an important point that the contemporary education system was designed to cater to the requirements of industrial revolution and suggested changing it. Musk presented solution highlighting the work being done by his company, Neuralink. It will make learning a matter of computing augmented by machines.

Another topic that the two discussed was Musk’s desire to make humans multi-planetary species. Ma’s focus was to take care of people on Earth first while Musk seemed keen on ensuring human consciousness continuum.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are that of the Author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the institutions he represents, the Tbilisi Tomorrow Institute or the organisations supporting the Tbilisi Tomorrow Institute.

Paramjeet Singh Berwal

Paramjeet, a lawyer, an invited lecturer, and AI research and policy consultant, is the Director of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Technology Law at Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University, Georgia. He is a Global Panelist with MIT Technology Review. He is frequently invited to deliver talks and presentations on various topics pertaining to AI. His research includes how AI will influence human existence, especially in the context of economy, work, law, society and its institutions, business management, social behaviour and policy making. He may be contacted at