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Thursday, August 29, 2019, 17:21
Jack Ma and Elon Musk talk AI in Shanghai
By He Wei and He Qi in Shanghai
Thursday, August 29, 2019, 17:21 By He Wei and He Qi in Shanghai

Alibaba founder Jack Ma, left, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speak at the World AI Conference in Shanghai, Aug 29, 2019. (GAO ERQIANG  / CHINA DAILY)

The second World Artificial Intelligence Conference commenced Thursday in Shanghai. During the opening ceremony, Alibaba Group chairman Jack Ma and Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, had a 45-minute discussion on AI and human life. Here are the five big themes they talked about.

I. On AI:

Elon Musk:

People underestimate the capabilities of AI. They think it's a smart human. It's much more than that. The common mistake that AI researchers make is to assume that they are intelligent. They are not. AI will be vastly smarter. I' m not a naturally optimistic person. The rate of change of technology is so radically fast that it is… outpacing our capabilities to understand.

Jack Ma:

AI is going to open a chapter of the world that people try to understand ourselves better. Ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent of the predications human beings had about future are all wrong, and the 0.001 percent are right by accident. I am happy about the AI that's going to understand the insights of humans better. People should have more confidence in themselves. I don't think AI is a threat or something terrible. Human beings are smart enough to learn that.

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II. On living on Mars

Elon Musk:

The thing about Mars is that it's important for us to take the sort of action that is most likely to continue consciousness into the future. We should not take it for granted that consciousness will continue. Among the sets of actions we can take that are likely to increase the scope and scale of consciousness (so that we are better able to understand the nature of the universe) – one of those actions is to become a multi-planet species, or to ensure that life is multi-planetary. This is the first time in the 4.5 billion years history of the Earth that it is possible to extend life beyond Earth. And less than one percent of resources should dedicated to making life multi-planetary.

Jack Ma:

I admire your courage to explore Mars, but I admire a lot of people spending (making) their efforts improving the Earth. How can we make the world more sustainable? People are spending more time on Earth thinking about how long the civilization of the human beings will be. We can only live for 100 years. So we cannot solve all the problems for the future, but we have to be responsible about the future. By AI, when human beings understand ourselves better, then we can improve the world better. What I am excited about AI is that they understand people. We need a hero like you (to explore Mars). But we need heroes like us working hard on the Earth improving things every day.

III. On jobs:

Jack Ma:

With every technology people start to worry about jobs. Actually jobs create a lot of jobs.

In the next 20-30 years, people will live much longer. Why should we have a lot of jobs? People should work three days a week, four hours a day. Because of AI, people will have more time enjoy being human beings. At that time the job we need is to make people happier, make people experience life. We cannot predict the future but we should ready that we are going to enter into the era where everybody lives to 120 years and we have more new problems. When people's lives get better, they don't want to have children. At that time, we are going to have a lot of jobs that nobody would want to do. We need AI, for instance like robots to take care of old people.

Elon Musk:

Over time AI will make jobs kind of pointless. Probably the last job that will remain will be writing software then eventually AI will just write its own software. People fundamentally enjoy interacting with other people. If you work on something that involves people or engineering, it's probably a good approach – and arts, of course. Yes. Like I said, we are going to have to figure out this situation or we are going to be left behind. It's important we do this quickly. We don't have much time.

IV. On education:

Jack Ma:

All the education systems, the things we teach our kids, are mainly designed for the industrial period. I'm sure that the machines will be much cleverer than human beings in the future. How can human being do better? In the past we were focused more on remembering things. Computers can remember better than you, can calculate faster, can run much faster than you. I want to spend more time on training kids on arts, on painting, on singing, on dancing. All these are the creative things that make people live like humans. So we should have confidence – computers only have the chips, man has the heart. It's the heart where the wisdom comes from. So I think in the next 10, 20 years, every country and every government should focus on reforming the education system, making sure our kids be able to find a job in the future and be able to live in a life that only works three days a week and four hours a day. Machines are invented by human beings. And according to science, humans can never create another animal smarter than humans.

Elon Musk:

I very much disagree with that. The first thing is that… we are very down; we can definitely make things better than ourselves. The most important mistake I see smart people making is assuming that they are smart. They are not. Computers are actually much smarter than human beings in so many dimensions. We used to think that being good at chess was an example of being a smart human. Now our cellphone can beat the world champion.

But I am worried about the birthrate as you referred to earlier. Most people think we have too many people on the planet, but actually this is an outdated view. Assuming AI is fine, the biggest problem the world will face is population collapse. The biggest in 20 years will be population collapse – not explosion.

ALSO READ: AI to thrive globally amid collaborations

V. On Life:

Elon Musk:

I think humans will solve the problem of environmental sustainability. I don't think it is easy. In fact, this is a self-fulfilling or unfulfilling promise. We must take tremendous action and continue the momentum towards environmental sustainability. China is the leader. Half of all the electric cars were made in China in last year. I'm not suggesting complacency, but I do think humans can and will solve the sustainability.

I do think that we can solve the biological aging (problem) if you want to. You have made DNA changes. But the question is, like, will people be ok with changing the DNA?

Jack Ma:

AI can definitely help the environmental sustainability. The reason why I want to stay in this Earth, I want to work on this Earth, I want to do anything I can to help this Earth being better is because going to the space is great, but spending our resources just focusing on picking up the garbage from the ocean, is more difficult. But AI can help us achieve that and solve the problems.

Human being can live better and longer, but what we need is not to live longer, but live healthier. I'm 100 percent sure people will live longer and healthier but may not necessarily live happier. If you want to be happier, human beings should focus on value, vision, and mission, and always have dreams. It's not the technology that change the world, it's the dreams that behind technology that change the world.

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