Jack Ma vs Elon Musk Debate — Different perspectives of future of AI

Saeed Ahmad
5 min readAug 30, 2019

Read how two big names in the AI domain see it’s future…

Jack Ma with Elon Musk at WAIC ‘19

So, guys here we are with Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba sharing stage with Elon Musk, Tesla CEO for the first time at WAIC ’19 in Shanghai, China.

It was great to see both big names in AI discussing the disruptions that AI can cause to us in the future. Both differed in every point about AI, but the only thing to which both agreed was that a population collapse is more likely to happen in coming 20 years.

Let us discuss some important points of this interesting debate :

How AI will deal with us?

1. How AI will deal with us:

“The biggest mistake I see people making is to assume they’re smart,” Musk countered. AI will be “much smarter than the smartest human you will ever know.”

Ma likened the view that humans won’t be able to compete with their machine inventions in most aspects of life — Musk’s stance — to people of a century ago trying to out-run cars they manufacture. “I never in my life say human beings will be controlled by machines, it’s impossible,” said Ma.

“Computers may be clever, but human beings are much smarter,” Ma said. “We invented the computer — I’ve never seen a computer invent a human being.”

AI will reduce the workload or jobs?

2. Will AI reduce the workload :

Ma proclaimed that people should be able to in-fact work 12-hour weeks, a seeming reversal of comments just months prior that it’s a privilege to work “996,” or nine to nine, six days a week.

But humanity will also have more leisure time in the future as AI takes on much of the burden of transporting, feeding, and thinking for earthlings, said Ma.

“People could work as little as three days a week, four hours a day with the help of technology advances,” he said.

Furthermore, he predicted AI would help create new kind of jobs, which would require less of our time and be centered on creative tasks.

By contrast, Mr Musk suggested that mass unemployment was a real concern. “AI will make jobs kind of pointless,” he claimed.

“Probably the last job that will remain will be writing AI, and then eventually, the AI will just write its own software.” Musk added.

Is AI really a threat to us?

3. Is AI a threat :

The Chinese entrepreneur said he was “quite optimistic” about AI and thought it was nothing for “street smart” people like them to be scared of.

“I don’t know man, that’s like famous last words,” responded Tesla’s chief.

Mr Musk added that technology was evolving faster than our ability to understand it.

Man vs Machine race

4. Man vs Machine — Who will win :

Mr Ma accepted that AI could now beat humans at games like chess and Go, but claimed computers would only be one of several intelligent tools that we would develop in time.

“Don’t worry about the machines,” he said.

“For sure, we should understand one thing: that man can never make another man. A computer is a computer. A computer is just a toy.” He added.

“Man cannot even make a mosquito. So, we should have a confidence. Computers only have chips, men have the heart. It’s the heart where the wisdom comes from.”

Although Mr Ma acknowledged that we needed to find ways to become “more creative and constructive”, he concluded that “my view is that [a] computer may be clever, but human beings are much smarter”.

Mr Musk responded: “Yeah, definitely not.”

“It’s going to get to the point where [AI] just can completely simulate a person in every way possible, like many people simultaneously,” he added.

“In fact, there’s a strong argument, we’re in the simulation right now.”

Increasing world population — A major concern

5. Major concern of human race :

Towards the end of the event the two men came together on one point — that concerns about overpopulation were misguided.

“Assuming… there’s a benevolent future with AI, I think that the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse,” said Mr Musk

“I want to emphasize this, the biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse, not explosion collapse.”

Mr Ma said he was absolutely in agreement.

“One point four billion in China sounds a lot, but I think [over the] next 20 years we’ll see this thing bring big trouble to China,” he said.

“And the speed of population decreasing is going to speed up. Now you’ve got a collapse.”

Conclusion :

Ma and Musk — differed in their perspective of the future of AI but both were sure that human mortality is a good thing as each generation brings new ideas to the global challenges we face.

How do you see AI ?

How it is going to change our lives?

Let me know in the comments. Speak your heart out !

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My name is Saeed Ahmad and I am a Data Scientist, Machine Learning Engineer and Full Stack Developer. I work on JavaScript, Python and all the related stuff. I love to write about new technologies and trends in the industry.

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Saeed Ahmad

I help developers to be better engineers! 💻 Software Engineer | 📈 Data Science | 💼 Entrepreneurship | 🧠 AI | 🖋️ Writer at DEV with 250K+ views.