Perspective: Musk-Zuckerberg debate over future of AI may be missing the point

By James Vincent, for The Verge

Jul 25, 2017

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The war between AI and humanity may be a long a way off, but the war between tech billionaire and tech billionaire is only just beginning. Today on Twitter, Elon Musk dismissed Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of the threat posed by artificial intelligence as “limited,” after the Facebook founder disparaged comments Musk made on the subject earlier this month.

As fun as it is to watch two extremely rich people, who probably wield more influence over your life than most politicians, trade barbs online, it’s hard to shake the feeling that both Musk and Zuckerberg are missing the point.

While AI researchers dismiss Musk’s comments on AI as alarmist, that’s only in reference to the imagined threat of some Skynet-style doomsday machine. The same experts frequently point out that artificial intelligence poses many genuine threats that already affect us today. These include how the technology can amplify racist and sexist prejudices; how it could upend society by putting millions out of jobs; how it is set to increase inequality; and how it will be used as tool of control by authoritarian governments.

These are real dangers that need real solutions, not just sci-fi speculation. And while Zuckerberg’s comments on the potential benefits of AI in healthcare and road safety are heartening, focusing only on the good that artificial intelligence can deliver is — in its own way — as limited as focusing only on the threat.

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