Photo: Flickr via OnInnovation
On Sunday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was playing the role of normal human being, holding a Facebook Live from his backyard in Palo Alto, California, as he smoked some meats and shared his views on killing what you cook, exercising, and of course, the future of humanity.
As he waited for his meats to grill, Zuckerberg read out loud one user’s question to him: “I watched a recent interview with Elon Musk and his largest fear for future was AI [artificial intelligence]. What are your thoughts on AI and how it could affect the world?”
This was one question Zuckerberg couldn’t resist answering. Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, is known for his dystopian views on AI. Musk believes that “robots will be able to do everything better than us” and will not only take our jobs, but could also be a threat to the existence of humanity by starting wars and manipulating information through their super intelligence networks. In 2014, he warned that AI could even be “potentially more dangerous than nukes.”
Zuckerberg had “strong opinions” about this.
“I think that people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios are—I don’t understand it. It’s really negative, and in some ways I actually think it’s pretty irresponsible,” he said. Zuckerberg then went on to outline how AI will help us, not replace us, in the next five years.
Live grilling in my backyard.
Posted by Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday, July 23, 2017
“If you’re arguing against AI, then you’re arguing against safer cars that aren’t going to have accidents. And you’re arguing against being able to better diagnose people when they’re sick. I just don’t see how, in good conscience, some people can do that. I’m just much more optimistic on this, in general, than probably a lot of folks are,” Zuckerberg said.
Elon Musk was not mentioned by name in Zuckerberg’s answer, but it’s clear who Zuckerberg is referencing when he mentions people who are acting “pretty irresponsible.”
Two days later, in his response to Zuckerberg’s criticism on his AI vision, Musk did what Zuckerberg did not: make it personal.
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
There’s a lot you can read in this 13-word answer. First off, the use of Zuckerberg’s first name. Using someone’s first name in an insult to their intellect suggests that this is personal, that you know the measure of this person and you find them lacking. You may hear “limited understanding” and think that this vague criticism shows restraint, but look closer. Saying that your fellow technology CEO has a “limited understanding” on one of the most important areas of technology is a staggering insult to their competence as an industry leader.
Do we need a tie-breaker to this war of words? Let’s ask another billionaire. Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates, sides with Musk when it comes to AI.
“First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well,” Gates said in a Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’ two years ago. “A few decades after that though, the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don’t understand why some people are not concerned.”
Billionaires, they’re just like us! They grill, tweet, and get into carefully-worded beefs with each other too—except their positions can actually change the course of humanity. The bad news is that while we’re all arguing about whether robots will destroy us, they’re moving ahead and getting ready to take our jobs.