Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have a tested history of disagreement over the potential of artificial intelligence, with Zuckerberg being the optimist and Musk being the prophet of doom.
At the Viva Technology Conference in Paris, Zuckerberg ducked an opportunity to disagree with the boss of Tesla and SpaceX, focusing instead on an area where the two tech titans have similar perspectives.
Musk was accused by Rodney Brooks, the founding director of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, of knowing little about AI. Brooks is also iRobot and Rethink Robotics ' co-founder.
Elon Reeve Musk (born 28 June 1971) is an American entrepreneur and businessman born in South Africa who founded X.com in 1999 (which later became PayPal), SpaceX in 2002, and Tesla Motors in 2003. In the late 20s, Musk became a multimillionaire when he sold his start-up company Zip2 to a Compaq Computers division. Musk hit the headlines in May 2012, when SpaceX successfully landed that would send to the Space shuttle the first commercial vehicle. With the purchase of Solar energy in 2016, he strengthened his stock portfolio and solidified his position as a market leader by assuming an executive role in the earliest days of the administration of President Donald Trump.
Image: The Independent
Billionaire business icon Elon Musk of Tesla, SpaceX and more, just fired back at Mark Zuckerberg over his grasp of AI's future, claiming the Facebook CEO's "comprehension of the topic is limited."
It all started back in September 2016, when the $200 million Internet.org satellite from Zuckerberg exploded on one of Musk's rockets in a pre-launch test fire accident. In response, Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post that he was "deeply disappointed" that "SpaceX's launch failure destroyed our satellite," a tone that was so passive and aggressive that I would probably start locking my door if it had come from a roommate.
Nearly a year later, in a public Facebook Live stream, the Facebook CEO not-so-subtly took a jab at Musk’s anxiety toward artificial intelligence. Musk previously said that AI poses an existential threat to the human race—a viewpoint that Zuckerberg characterized as “pretty irresponsible.” While casually having a BBQ brisket in his San Francisco backyard, Zuckerberg said he had “pretty strong opinions” on this. “I am optimistic.”
“And 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.” Facebook uses machine learning in a myriad ways, including scanning posts to identify potentially suicidal users.
Whether Musk will also delete his Instagram remains to be seen. Facebook owns Instagram, and today he tweeted that "the influence of Facebook is slowly creeping in." Musk posts on a regular basis, obviously far more than any other tech CEO, sharing everything from pictures of ex-girlfriends to his recent vacation in Jordan.
Choosing a favorite between Musk and Zuckerberg is a no-win scenario; Musk is successfully privatizing part of humanity's collective outer space journey for its own benefit, and Zuckerberg has facilitated vast amounts of sensitive information being scooped up and used for unknown and often surprising purposes by unknown parties, as shown in the Cambridge Analytical Saga this week.
Zuckerberg's careful move to find common ground with Musk contrasts sharply with his language about Musk last summer.
In July 2017, one Sunday afternoon in his backyard in Palo Alto, California, Zuckerberg hosted a live Facebook. A user posted a question that Zuckerberg read out loud: "I watched Elon Musk's recent interview and his greatest fear of the future was AI. What are your thoughts on AI and how it could affect the world?"
Musk, earlier that month, had said that AI will cause massive job disruption, that robots "will be able to do everything better than us." He also said: "I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization."
It's an idea that resonates in Silicon Valley these days, where a debate about technology and its potential unintended consequences is dividing the industry into rival camps – each with a tech titan as its leading figure.
On one side is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who sees technology as an intrinsic good. Any social or ethical problems can simply be handled as they arise (preferably without much regulation). This is the default setting for Silicon Valley, which sees the future through utopia-tinged glasses: The problem is the past, and the future can’t come soon enough.
On the other side is Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, who argues for caution when dealing with technologies such as artificial intelligence lest humans lose control of their creations, and has expressed reservations about Zuckerberg’s online surveillance business model.
Neither man disavows technology; indeed, both insist our future depends upon rapid progress (Musk, after all, is pouring billions into interplanetary rockets and a new solar economy).