Multibillionaire tech maverick Elon Musk likes to talk about the future, a near future he has stated before will see humans displaced by robots.
Speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday, the chief executive of Tesla Motors Inc. covered a wide range of topics, including his concerns about the possibility of pernicious artificial intelligence, the meaning of life, sustainability of the planet, space travel and, not least, mass unemployment.
Musk (pictured) also spent some time discussing what virtual reality will look like sometime soon. “So realistic,” he said, that “you won’t be able to tell the difference between that game and reality as you know it.”
Musk carried on in a similar sci-fi vein, telling his audience that governments will have to regulate the development of artificial intelligence lest it become too powerful for humans to handle. Don’t get carried away, said Musk:, “Sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.”
Musk said that humans will merge with AI in a cyborg-like machine-human symbiosis that he says is already happening as we become more reliant on our machines and the information they provide. “You already have a digital tertiary layer. I say ‘tertiary’ because you think of the animal brain or the primal brain, and then the cortex, the thinking brain, and then your digital self as the third layer.”
As we become merged with technology, in the world according to Musk, there will be less and less for us to do. A present example of this coming true is the self-driving car. The driving industry may be a huge employer today, but vehicles will all be self-driving within a couple of decades, said Musk. “Twenty years is a short period of time to have something like 12-15 percent of the workforce be unemployed.”
Musk went on to note that with so many people unable to find work, the government will have to introduce something like a Universal Basic Income, a guaranteed amount of money each month that is enough to live on. “I don’t think we’re going to have a choice,” said Musk, adding that there will be “fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”
As for the distant future, Musk said that what we predict right now won’t look much like what actually happens 50 years from now. It wasn’t clear whether he meant it would be better or worse.