Why Will.i.am isn’t afraid of artificial intelligence

  • Will.i.am thinks AI is an opportunity to close the world's wealth gap.
  • "Of course when something new comes around people are going to be afraid because they've never seen it," said the rapper.
  • He spoke to CNBC in an episode of "Life Hacks Live" at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
Stephane Cardinale | Corbis | Getty Images

Some billionaires in the tech world have aired their concerns about artificial intelligence (AI), but U.S. musician and entrepreneur Will.i.am is optimistic about what the technology will bring.

The rapper thinks AI is an opportunity to close the world's wealth gap, a view in stark contrast to Elon Musk's doomsday predictions.

In an episode of CNBC's "Life Hacks Live" at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, last week, Will.i.am said that people shouldn't fear this next technological advancement, and should embrace it instead.

"Of course, when something new comes around people are going to be afraid because they've never seen it," he said.

"But then the creators, folks with vision and imagination, are like, 'Oh my gosh, you know what we can do with that. You know how that could bring about a better life?'"

Describing himself as "optimistic" about the new tech, he said AI could help make a more "human" world.

"There are a lot of things that we have to question on how we live today, and as smart as we are, we make some dumb ass freaking decisions based on greed," Will.i.am said.

"We fear the unknown and we close our eyes and just ignore folks that are out there struggling.

Recording artist will.i.am
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Recording artist will.i.am

"And I think these tools, while folks that are complacent and comfortable with the way the world is today, are going to be put in the hands of folks that need to solve their own problems."

Just 42 people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50 percent worldwide, according to a recent study by global charity Oxfam, with approximately 82 percent of the money generated in 2017 going to the richest 1 percent of the global population.

The rapper said that with the help of AI, the world can become a more equal place.

"Maybe we need a different type of intelligence so we can see the human in us," he said.

"Right now, we're living in the inhumane age and the human age is about to come, but we're going to need assistance to get there. And that's why I'm optimistic about artificial intelligence."

In November, Will.i.am's tech start-up I.am+ raised $117 million in venture funding, with the firm now employing about 300 people.

But the entrepreneur also described his frustration in raising money for humanitarian and educational causes.

"It's easier to raise money for AI than it is for people to donate money for human education because if you have money, I don't know why it's so hard, I don't know why people don't want to invest in education," he said.

"It is disheartening but it's not going to stop me from trying to continue to do the work because I've seen how it's transforming these kids lives," he added.