Elon Musk recently spoke at a conference in Dubai, where the conversation ranged from autonomous vehicles to AI to space travel. This article gives a nice overview of the talk and is packed pull of quotes that could only be from Elon:
“One way to think of it is to imagine you were very confident we were going to be visited by super intelligent aliens in 10 years or 20 years at the most.”
“Digital super intelligence will be like an alien.”
“Maybe they are among us. I don’t know. Some people think I am an alien. Not true. Of course I would say that though, wouldn’t I?”
I really liked when he touched on not just the advantages advances in computing and autonomy will lead to but more importantly, the disadvantages, and what can be done to combat them.
“That disruption will take place over 20 years. But 20 years to have 12-15 percent of the workforce unemployed is a short time.“
His solution was unemployment benefit for the masses: “What to do about mass employment – this is going to be a big challenge.”
“We will need to have some kind of universal basic income – I don’t think there will be a choice.”
“There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”
Basic income, something that governments around the world are already experimenting with in small groups, is really the only way going forward.
And then there’s something I’ve touched on in previous issues and that Musk mentioned later in his talk: Without a job and I suppose, need to work, do we have purpose? Meaning? I think so. In the short term at least. But I do worry that without struggle, without compromise, without angst - that’s when the technological advancements I have no doubt we’ll see and experience in our lifetime go from positives to negatives.
But like those that came before us, we will find a way to persevere. For individuals that may be hobbies or the pursuit of happiness through more traditional (read: spiritual) means. For our species, it’ll take a lot more. Extending life beyond 100 years, travel to different solar systems, discovering new compounds and materials; we will find meaning and purpose where there is none, because it’s in our inherit nature. And without that drive, that ambition, are we even still human?