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The Clash of the Titans – two of the biggest tech Moghuls debate over AI and the future


Jack Ma – “I don’t think that artificial intelligence is a threat. I don’t think that it’s something terrible. Human beings are smart enough to learn that.”

Elon Musk – “I don’t know man. Famous last words.”

The World Artificial Intelligence Conference organized in Shanghai in August witnessed an interesting debate between two tech billionaires, Elon Musk and Jack Ma, the men behind Tesla and Alibaba, over artificial

intelligence (AI), Mars and the future of mankind. While Musk emphasized on the consequences and dangers of AI, Ma was optimistic and believes AI poses no threat to humanity.

Impact on jobs:

Ma predicts AI would help create new kinds of jobs, which would require less of our time and we could be focused on creative tasks. He said, “I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day. In the artificial intelligence period, people can live 120 years. At that time, we are going to have a lot of jobs which nobody wants to do. So, we need artificial intelligence for the robots to take care of the old guys.”

Musk opposed saying, “AI will make jobs kind of pointless. Probably the last job that will remain will be writing AI, and then eventually, the AI will just write its own software." To be able to overcome this situation, he believes humans should find a way to connect their brains to computers, something that his latest startup is already working on.

Who is smarter? – Humans or AI:

Musk recognizes the potential of AI overtaking human intelligence by stating that, "It's going to get to the point where [AI] just can completely simulate a person in every way possible, like many people simultaneously."

Ma acknowledged that humans need to find ways to become more constructive and creative, he strongly believes "my view is that computer may be clever, but human beings are much smarter".He added that every country, government and human being should focus on reforming the education system, making sure that the generations to come can find a job aligned to where AI will be posed in the future.

The future and way forward:

In a world where AI will take over mankind according to Elon Musk, he believes it is imperative for our species to find ways to inhabit other planets. Claiming he is “pro Earth”, Musk believes we should spend a small amount of Earth’s planet’s resources and talent coming up with a plan to put people on Mars. Commending Elon Musk’s efforts on mission Mars, Jack Ma says that what the world needs right now are people working hard on the Earth, to improve things every day and making the world more sustainable.

What they agree on:

Both Musk and Ma agree that one of the biggest problems that poses threat to the world is population collapse and that the fears of overpopulation due to immigration is short-sighted. The socio-economic implications of negative growth rate in population in the long-term is dangerous – more and more of the population will be made up of older people disrupting the status-quo.

Our view:

In this century of constant technological upheaval, AI will take over from humans in many ways. We can prepare ourselves by focusing on imminent socio-economic issues such as “population collapse”and future-proof ourselves by reforming the education system to co-exist with AI.

Sukanya Saha

Mohamed Abdulsaleh Abdulla


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