Entrepreneurs

Elon Musk: ‘Robots will be able to do everything better than us’

Elon Musk is certain that robots will be able to do your job better than you.

And even the billionaire CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is not sure what to do about that.

"There certainly will be job disruption. Because what's going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us. ... I mean all of us," says Musk, speaking to the National Governors Association on Saturday.

"Yeah, I am not sure exactly what to do about this. This is really the scariest problem to me, I will tell you."

Transportation operators will be the first to lose their jobs, says Musk. The U.S. Department of Transportation says one in seven jobs in the U.S. is transportation-related.

But no job is safe, he says. "Transport will be one of the first to go fully autonomous. But when I say everything — the robots will be able to do everything, bar nothing."

Robots are getting smarter faster than expected.

Artificial intelligence experts thought that it would be at least 20 years before a computer could beat a human playing Go, a strategy game that is more complex than chess. Last year, AlphaGo, a division of Google subsidiary Deep Mind, "absolutely crushed the world's best player. And now it can crush and play the top 50 simultaneously and crush them all," Musk says.

"That pace of progress is remarkable."

"Robots will be able to do everything better than us." -Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX

Also, robots are now able to teach themselves physical skills faster than humans can.

"You can see robots that can learn to walk from nothing within hours, way faster than any biological being," Musk says.

The scariest potential for artificial intelligence, however, isn't job loss, says Musk.

"The thing that is the most dangerous — and it is the hardest to ... get your arms around because it is not a physical thing — is a deep intelligence in the network.

"You say, 'What harm can a deep intelligence in the network do?' Well, it can start a war by doing fake news and spoofing email accounts and doing fake press releases and by manipulating information," Musk says to the bipartisan gathering of U.S. governors.

Musk says that people are not as afraid of the potential of robotics and artificial intelligence as they should be because they don't fully understand its potential.

"I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it," he says.

"AI is a fundamental risk to the existence 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 within society, of course, but they were not harmful to society as a whole."

According to Musk, the solution is to increase regulatory oversight of the development and implementation of artificial intelligence as soon as possible.

"AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation than be reactive," he says.

So is there any upside to all this?

Yes, say some of the most successful tech billionaires.

Entrepreneur Mark Cuban has said he thinks the world's first trillionaire will be an artificial intelligence entrepreneur.

And in the big picture, robots taking over jobs can be a good thing, says Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, speaking alongside his billionaire buddy Warren Buffett at Columbia. "The macro picture that it enables is an opportunity," says Gates.

As for Musk, he says he expects the government will have to implement a form of universal basic income, or a cash handout to all citizens to make up for lost jobs.

"There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," Musk told CNBC in November. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

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See also:

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