In brief: At the Shanghai Expo Center in China, hosting the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference, Elon Musk and Jack Ma began proceedings with a 45-minute debate around the risks and potential rewards associated with artificial intelligence while also discussing Mars, work culture and chimpanzees among other topics.
Elon Musk, the tech entrepreneur and Tesla CEO, exchanged views on-stage with Jack Ma, Chinese billionaire and co-founder of the multinational conglomerate Alibaba Group, over the risks and benefits of artificial intelligence.
"Does AI mean love? There's like a name, AI, it sort of sounds a bit like love?" began Musk to which Ma amusingly replied "Yeah AI...I hate the word AI called artificial intelligence. I call it Alibaba intelligence."
Both leaders had different opinions on the implications of the technology where optimistic Ma said that he didn't consider AI to be a threat, "I don't know, man, that's like, famous last words," replied Musk. According to the Tesla CEO, most people think of AI as a smart human but he said it's going to be much more than that. "It'll be much smarter than the smartest human."
He further highlighted AI's capability to be much smarter than humans by saying that "the biggest mistake that I see artificial intelligence researchers making is assuming that they're intelligent. Yeah they're not, compared to AI. And so like, a lot of them cannot imagine something smarter than themselves, but AI will be vastly smarter—vastly."
Jack Ma, meanwhile, credited Elon with having a vision about technology and said that he himself is not a "tech guy" as he's "all about life" and thinks that AI will open a new chapter enabling people to understand themselves better. "99.99 percent of the predictions that human beings had in history about the future—all wrong," said Ma to which Musk responded "Including that one?"
Talking about technology that's changing at an "incredibly fast" rate, Musk said that "it is outpacing our ability to understand it," and he wasn't sure if that was good or bad. He further commented on "humanity" being a "biological boot loader for digital super intelligence."
When asked by Ma about his curiosity for Mars, Musk said that he thinks it was "important for us to take the set of actions that are most likely to continue consciousness into the future....where are the aliens? This is the Fermi paradox. This is one of the most important questions. How come we have not found any aliens? There are people out there who think we've found aliens. Trust me, I would know. We have not."
Commenting on AI's role as a force for good in reducing work hours, Ma said that AI would help create new kinds of jobs that require less of our time. "I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day," and that in artificial intelligence, people would be able to live on for 120 years.
With the debate lasting over 45 minutes, the executives touched on education systems, disagreed over machines outsmarting humans and concluded that population collapse was the biggest problem the world faced over the next 20 years.