Jack Ma, Elon Musk Debate AI, Aliens and Mars at Shanghai Tech Conference

By Ryan Gandolfo, August 30, 2019

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Tesla CEO and jianbing enthusiast Elon Musk was in Shanghai yesterday to kick off the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) with Alibaba founder Jack Ma.

The two business titans chatted for 45 minutes about AI in front of a live audience at the tech event.

Jack Ma spoke optimistically about AI to the crowd in Shanghai, talking about the job opportunities the technology will help create for the future workforce and predicting that people will spend less time doing trivial work and more time getting involved in creative tasks. Ma told the audience “I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day.” (A far cry from the ‘996’ lifestyle he promoted earlier this year.) He also projected that humans could live to 120 years old in the artificial intelligence period.

Musk, who has frequently expressed his thoughts about AI on Twitter as well as in numerous interviews, drew a less optimistic picture for listeners. “AI will make jobs kind of pointless,” he said. “Probably the last job that will remain will be writing AI, and then eventually, the AI will just write its own software.” His proposed solution is to “go along for the ride with AI” by connecting human brains to computers – and yes, he does have a start-up geared towards that goal.

READ MORE: Tesla CEO Elon Musk Offered Permanent Residency in China

The topic of Mars and extraterrestrial life was also broached during the business leaders’ chat. 

Image via @luluyilun/Twitter; text by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s

Ma asked Musk why he’s so curious about Mars, to which he responded: “It’s important for us to take the set of actions that are most likely to continue consciousness into the future.” Musk also openly questioned why we haven’t found any aliens, noting that if anyone had found aliens, he would know.

AliensImages via imgflip@luluyilun/Twitter; compiled by Bridget O’Donnell/That’s

Ma told listeners that he’s not interested in the red planet, but rather focuses his attention on the issues Earth faces. However, he did take the time to add, “I think it’s easy to go to Mars.” 

At the end of the day, the two brainiacs did agree on one thing: love. Ma told the audience “If you want to survive you need to have the love quotient, otherwise you can’t survive in the time of AI.” Musk, in agreement, said that “love is the answer.”

Ma and Musk’s conversation (in some way or another) set the tone for this three-day event, which covers a range of topics from intelligent algorithms to autonomous driving and AI+5G. This marks the second year that Shanghai has hosted the event, which attracted 200,000 visitors and 72,000 guests from over 40 countries and regions last year, according to Xinhua. 

Watch below to catch their whole conversation at WAIC (VPN off):

[Cover image via @luluyilun/Twitter]

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