Clash of the ti­tans

Telsa chief Elon Musk fears for the fu­ture, but Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg sees brighter days ahead.

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - Bypeter Hol­ley

It’s rare — if not un­heard of — to hear some­one ques­tion Mark Zucker­berg’s com­pre­hen­sion skills.

The Face­book chief ex­ec­u­tive and so­cial me­dia icon is fre­quently lauded for his crit­i­cal think­ing and global vi­sion, qual­i­ties that have helped him main­tain his reign atop one of the world’s most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies.

Yet on Tues­day, Tesla chief ex­ec­u­tive and fel­low bil­lion­aire Elon Musk said in a tweet that Zucker­berg’s un­der­stand­ing of the threat posted by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence “is lim­ited.”

Ouch.

In Sil­i­con Val­ley, at least, them’s tech ti­tan fightin’ words.

Musk’s tweet was a re­sponse to a Face­book live broad­cast that Zucker­berg did dur­ing a back­yard grilling ses­sion July 23 in which he was asked about Musk’s stri­dent warn­ings sur­round­ing AI. Musk wrote, “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His un­der­stand­ing of the sub­ject is lim­ited.” With­out men­tion­ing Musk by name, Zucker­berg called such warn­ings “re­ally neg­a­tive” and “pretty ir­re­spon­si­ble.”

As he waited for his wood-burn­ing stove to fin­ish slow-cook­ing a brisket, Zucker­berg fielded a va­ri­ety of ques­tions, in­clud­ing on eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity and the fu­ture of AI.

“I think that peo­ple who are naysay­ers and try to drum up these dooms­day sce­nar­ios . ... I don’t un­der­stand it. It’s re­ally neg­a­tive, and, in some ways, I ac­tu­ally think it’s pretty ir­re­spon­si­ble,” said Zucker­berg, who also ar­gued that peo­ple “can build things and the world gets bet­ter.”

Zucker­berg pointed out some of the ways in which he be­lieves AI can save hu-

man lives, such as help­ing to en­hance the safety of self-driv­ing cars and to di­ag­nose med­i­cal con­di­tions. He ar­gued that tech­nol­ogy can be used for good or bad and that it’s in­cum­bent upon in­ven­tors to in­no­vate with cau­tion.

“But peo­ple who are ar­gu­ing for slow­ing down the process of build­ing AI, I just find that re­ally ques­tion­able,” he added. “I have a hard time wrap­ping my head around that. If you’re ar­gu­ing against AI, then you’re ar­gu­ing against safer cars that aren’t go­ing to have ac­ci­dents and you’re ar­gu­ing against be­ing able to bet­ter di­ag­nose peo­ple when they’re sick.”

Musk has been warn­ing for years about the risk posed by AI, most re­cently telling a group of gov­er­nors this month that they need to start reg­u­lat­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, which he called a “fun­da­men­tal risk to the ex­is­tence of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion.”

When pressed for con­crete guid­ance, Musk said the govern­ment must get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of AI be­fore it’s too late.

“Once there is aware­ness, peo­ple will be ex­tremely afraid, as they should be,” Musk said. “AI is a fun­da­men­tal risk to the fu­ture of hu­man civ­i­liza­tion in a way that car ac­ci­dents, air­plane crashes, faulty drugs or bad food were not. They were harm­ful to a set of in­di­vid­u­als in so­ci­ety, but they were not harm­ful to in­di­vid­u­als as a whole.”

Af­ter Musk dropped his dig at Zucker­berg on Twit­ter, thou­sands of retweets and “likes” fol­lowed. Musk fol­lowed up his state­ment by not­ing that a “movie on the sub­ject” is “com­ing soon,” but he did not pro­vide de­tails.

Jeop­ardy Pro­duc­tions

IBM’S Wat­son, cen­ter, beat Jeop­ardy masters Ken Jennings, left, and Brad Rut­ter in 2011 over two ex­hi­bi­tion matches. All three con­tes­tants were play­ing for char­ity.

Kim­i­hiro Hoshino, Afp/getty Im­ages

Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg thinks AI can save hu­man lives with self-driv­ing cars and its abil­ity to di­ag­nose med­i­cal con­di­tions.

Bren­dan Smi­alowski, Afp/getty Im­ages

Elon Musk’s Tesla au­to­mated cars use AI, but he has called it a fun­da­men­tal risk to hu­man civ­i­liza­tion.

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