Mark Zuckerberg vs. Elon Musk


Artificial intelligence: a force for good or bad?
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I. Two tech giants’ clashing views of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI), a topic discussed in pop culture as being “good” or “evil” has now become a central theme in Silicon Valley.

  • Hollywood movies have depicted AI in moral terms or portrayed it as a technological advancement with good or evil implications.
    • Terminator: The Terminator, a cyborg assassin, is sent back in time from 2029 to 1984 to kill a woman whose son will one day become a savior against machines in a post-apocalyptic future.
    • The Matrix: A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality – that humans are living in a simulated reality created by sentient machines to subdue the human population – and chooses to fight back.
    • I, Robot: Highly intelligent robots fill public service positions throughout the world, operating under three rules meant to keep humans safe. The robots, deeming that the world is endangered when under human control, begin attacking human beings. With the help of one robot who can break the three rules and can side with humans, mankind is able to resist the uprising.
    • A.I. Artificial Intelligence: A highly advanced robotic boy is uniquely programmed with the ability to love. He longs to become "real" so that he can regain the love of his human mother.
  • Recently, Google, Facebook, and other top tech companies have launched services that incorporate AI. For example, in a much-anticipated game between AlphaGo, a computer Go program developed by Google DeepMind, and Lee Sedol, an 18-time world champion, AlphaGo defeated Lee soundly and received much attention from the public.

Of recent, the press has been focusing on Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk’s public debate on AI and whether this technology is “good” or “evil.”

  • On a stockholder meeting held on July 15, 2017, Elon Musk issued a warning against and emphasized the need to regulate AI, citing its potential to destroy mankind.
  • On July 23, Mark Zuckerberg dismissed dystopian scenarios for the technology and expressed optimism for AI’s potential to save human lives.
  • On July 25, Musk had a comeback on Twitter: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”

Media outlets in the US watched as the debate unfolded. The coverage tended not to pick one side over the other, but rather reported on the arguments produced by each person.

  • Bloomberg: “It’s rare for Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg to interact publicly with other moguls online. […] But with Elon Musk, [...] it hasn’t been as cordial.” This indicates that AI is a very important topic in the tech community.
  • TechCrunch: "AI is a multi-faceted and complicated subject. […] This back-and-forth between two of the world’s most influential figures in business will at least help bring this topic [1]to the fore, and encourage deeper discussions around the future of AI.”

AI: will it be a force of destruction or a life-saving advancement for mankind?

II. Elon Musk’s view of AI

From the beginning, Elon Musk was against the commercialization of AI, predicting that the technology would have a negative impact on humanity.

  • As an undergraduate, Elon Musk believed that there were five things that would most affect the future of humanity: the internet, sustainable energy, space exploration, artificial intelligence, and rewriting the human genetics.
  • Of these, Musk believed that the internet, sustainable energy, and space exploration would have a positive influence on humanity. In response, he started PayPal (internet), SolarCity/Tesla (sustainable energy), and SpaceX (space exploration).
  • Musk did not work on commercializing artificial intelligence because he believed that robots, which are less susceptible to biases and errors, would take jobs away from people. This would result in the destruction of the middle class and subsequently, social chaos.

There are many besides Elon Musk who are convinced that AI will have a negative impact on humanity.

  • Bill Gates: “I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence. 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. 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.”
  • Stephen Hawking: “Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded.”
  • Stuart Russell: : “It’s going to create an enormous increase in the capability of civilization. And some of you already know about some of those applications of AI that maybe not so welcome. One of them is the creation of intelligent weapons that can choose for themselves who to kill, where to go, and what counts as a target. And this will be a new kind of weapon of mass destruction … you can simply launch ten million [2]miniaturized devices that can kill anybody in that city. We’re also going to see the application of intelligent machines to watch our movement to understand what we’re doing and to modify their behaviors to change what we buy, to change who we vote for, to change who we talk to, and how we manage our daily lives in ways that we may not be able to control as individuals.  This is another undesirable consequence.”   

Elon Musk is a champion of the “humanness” of humanity and trusts the superiority of the human brain. Therefore, he is investing in technology that can maximize the potential of the brain.

  • Musk believes that humans must be equipped with tools to stay ahead of AI. He thinks that humans are only using 3-5% of their brains’ potential and that technological advancements in this area could allow humans to reach their full potential.
  • Musk has recently been investing in ways to computerize the human brain.
  • In March 2017, Musk launched another company called Neuralink, pursuing what he calls “neural lace” technology, implanting tiny brain electrodes which may one day allow a user to upload and download thoughts.

However, because Elon Musk knows that he cannot simply ignore the growing presence of AI, he has focused instead on investing in research geared towards monitoring AI.

  • In October 2014, Musk and Mark Zuckerberg co-invested in an AI startup Vicarious, stating their interest in technology enabling real-time updates and monitoring of AI-related technology.
  • In December 2015, Musk and Y-Combinator president Sam Altman launched OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company aimed at steering the development of artificial intelligence in a positive direction.

Elon Musk maintains a pessimistic view of AI, but is investing in technology aimed to monitor and moderate the technology.

III. Mark Zuckerberg’s view of AI

Unlike Elon Musk, Zuckerberg is confident that AI will make society only safer and more productive.

  • Zuckerberg claims that AI will free people of unnecessary labor, make premium services[3]widely available, and protect humans from accident or disease-related deaths.
  • Self-driving cars could eliminate automobile-related death and injury, reduce the time and energy wasted in transportation, and enable humans to use their time more efficiently. They could also shrink the number of vehicles on the road, easing traffic as well as alleviating the environmental impact of automobiles.
  • Intelligent legal services could represent lower income individuals. Intelligent health diagnosis services could provide medical care to the underprivileged. Intelligent education services could offer high-quality education, regardless of background. All these will help resolve issues caused by [4]socioeconomic disparities.
  • [5]As additional perks, intelligent personal assistants and intelligent kitchenware can further improve the quality of living for many people.

In addition to Mark Zuckerberg, executives of Google and other companies that use big data have demonstrated enthusiasm for AI and its potential to revolutionize service-related or technical industries.

  • Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt: “We are fortunate to be living in a time when technology has the potential to fundamentally improve the way people work, learn, and live—no matter who they are, where they are, or what they do. It can make us all smarter, happier, and healthier, on a scale we’ve never seen before in history. But it’s up to all of us—tech companies, governments, business, civil society—to work together to create the conditions that allow innovation to flourish. Only then will we see the progress our societies deserve, and demand. Only then will we see magic.”
  • Some of Alphabet’s spinoff projects incorporating AI include: Boston Dynamics, a robotics company; Waymo, an autonomous car development company; DeepMind, a neural networks and AI company; and AlphaGo, a narrow AI computer program that plays the board game Go.
  • Google, Facebook, and other companies with a large store of data support AI because their businesses can only benefit from technology that will improve their ability to process, analyze, and apply data.

Zuckerberg is using AI to further Facebook’s mission to “bring the world closer together.”

  • Facebook built DeepText, a text understanding engine that detects and removes harmful, discriminatory, or divisive posts from the website, as well as other AI-incorporating systems.
  • To further develop its AI capabilities, Facebook launched its Applied Machine Learning Team in 2015. The company also launched Facebook AI Research (FAIR) to understand and develop AI systems through publications, open source software, participation in technical conferences, and collaborating with academia. In addition, Facebook is educating upcoming engineers on AI technology through its AI Academy.

Several Silicon Valley startups are also developing their own AI capabilities because they are aware that Facebook and Google are onto an innovation that will profoundly shape the future.

  • At the start of 2016, there were only 1,100 AI startups. Now, there are 1,500 [6]and counting. Funding for AI startups was $110M in 2009; this figure swelled to $1.16B in 2015.
  • For example, and Clara Labs are two startups that are developing AI services to compete with the intelligent personal assistant technologies of Google and Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg is aware of concerns that AI can be used for evil. However, because he believes that companies like Facebook could use AI for good, he thinks that this field should be unregulated and financially supported.

IV. A future shaped by AI

AI is a [7]double-edged sword. It can destroy humans or make their lives more fruitful. Therefore, the world is paying attention to how regulations might develop around this innovation.

What is certain is that AI technology will continue to develop. [8]The crux of the argument for or against this tech is how it will be applied to our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, South Korea is far behind the United States, China, and Japan in AI technology.

  • There are not enough data science or engineering jobs in Korea. Samsung’s primary business is in the manufacturing industry. Other sizable tech-focused companies like Naver and Kakao lack the coverage and data required to flesh out AI services.
  • There isn’t enough capital available for AI-related startups and startups as a whole.
  • In comparison, China and Japan are developing their AI capabilities under such innovative executives as Jack Ma (Alibaba) and Masayoshi Son (SoftBank).

Do you think that AI will have a positive or negative influence on humanity? How will our lives unfold around AI? How should Korea approach AI and develop AI capabilities? Should AI be regulated in Korea?

Please take this time to discuss this topic with your Ringle Tutor and improve your spoken English.

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