Artificial intelligence: A threat to humans?
“Great minds don’t always think alike,” said Kurt Wagner in Recode.net. Two of Silicon Valley’s most influential visionaries—Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg—are having a public spat over whether artificial intelligence will “destroy mankind.” Musk fears the worst, telling a meeting of governors last month that AI technology must be regulated before it inevitably escapes our control. “I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react,” he said. “Once there is awareness, people will be extremely afraid.” Not long after, Zuckerberg declared in a Facebook Live broadcast that such warnings were “irresponsible.” He insisted that AI would make our lives better, thanks to medical breakthroughs and safer self-driving cars. Musk then fired back with a “billionaire burn,” said Peter Holley in The Washington Post, tweeting, “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.” In the parlance of Silicon Valley, “them’s tech titan fightin’ words.”
Artificial intelligence is simply not as intelligent as Musk implies, said Ron Miller in TechCrunch.com. There’s a “tendency for us to assume that if an algorithm can do X, it must be as smart as humans.” But while current deep-learning systems are very good at the defined tasks they’re trained for, they stumble beyond those strict parameters. IBM’s Deep Blue, for instance, can beat chess grand masters, but not much else. The Alphabet team that taught the machine AlphaGo to beat the best human Go player in the world has admitted that if the size of the board was made even slightly bigger, AlphaGo “would have been dead” in competition. Musk also makes it sound as though AI itself is the threat, said Artur Kiulian in Entrepreneur.com. But just like nuclear fusion, “the dangerous aspect of AI will always come from people and their use of it, not from the technology.”
Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is wearing rose-colored glasses, said Nick Thieme in Slate.com. The Facebook CEO is right that AI developments will improve lives—but it will be the lives of the wealthy, who will be chauffeured around in self-driving cars and live in AI-enabled homes tailored “to their every need.” For the rest of us, AI “will deliver little more than unemployment checks,” as millions of jobs are automated over the next few decades. So if Musk is being irresponsible, so is Zuckerberg—for sugarcoating the “very real lion’s den we’re walking into.” Instead of feuding over who understands AI better, “perhaps Zuckerberg and Musk should team up to address the AI issues really worth worrying about—like workers displaced by Silicon Valley’s creations.” ■