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AI Weekly: Musk and Zuck are missing the point

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had a little tit-for-tat this week over artificial intelligence. Does it represent an existential threat to humanity, as Musk argues, or does it hold great promise to improve our lives, as Zuckerberg believes?

On a Facebook Live broadcast, Zuckerberg declared, “I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative, and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”

Musk took the kerfuffle to Twitter, replying: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”

Ouch.

A few hours after Musk tweeted his barb, a voice of reason took the stage at a Harvard Business Review event in San Francisco. Andrew Ng, the cofounder of Coursera and former chief scientist at Chinese technology powerhouse Baidu, said, “As an AI insider, having built and shipped a lot of AI products, I don’t see a clear path for AI to surpass human-level intelligence. I think that job displacement is a huge problem, and the one that I wish we could focus on, rather than be distracted by these science fiction-ish, dystopian elements.”

Ng went on to warn, “As a society, we’re over-investing our attention on evil AI and under-investing on job disruption and the underlying educational changes that need to happen.”

And he’s right. The asteroid bearing down on us is not a dystopian future with robot overlords, but the tens of thousands of workers who will lose their jobs to AI. “A lot of people doing the jobs that are about to go away — they don’t understand AI, they don’t have the training to understand AI. And so a lot of people whose jobs are going to go away don’t know that they’re in the crosshairs.” And that’s where we should be investing our attention.

Please send newsletter feedback and guest post submissions to John Brandon; email news tips to Blair Hanley Frank and Khari Johnson  — and be sure to bookmark our AI Channel.

Thanks for reading,
Blaise Zerega
Editor in Chief

P.S. Please enjoy this video from MB 2017, “The New York Times, AI and long-term engagement.”

 

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