World AI Conference: Ma, Musk disagree on AI
By Gong Zhe

Tesla founder Elon Musk became one of the highlights of the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. His debate with Alibaba founder Jack Ma showed how different the two tech giants can be.

Chinese media outlets and netizens are calling the debate the "clash between the two Mas" because Musk is spelled as "Masike" in pinyin, the romanization system of Chinese characters.

AI took center stage in their debate but they discussed a lot more, touching on Mars missions and weighing in on employment, education, life and even philosophy.

Ma and Musk disagree on how smart AI can be

Ma said computers can never surpass human intelligence because they are eventually machines created by humans.

"I've seen humans making computers. But I have never seen computers making a human being," he argued.

But Musk took the matter from a different angle. "Computers have become better than humans in so many dimensions... We will be surpassed in every single way, guaranteed," he told Ma.

"The computer is only one of the clever tools human created. But humans will create more tools that are much cleverer than computers," Ma countered.

Ma and Musk disagree on going to Mars

Ma also showed no interest in going to Mars. "Why are you so curious about Mars?" he asked Musk, whose company Space X is trying to design a rocket to carry humans to the Red Planet.

Musk said he worried that humans may not have much time left to become a "multi-planetary consciousness."

"I think it's wise to assume the time window is short," he replied. "We need to do this as quickly as possible."

But Ma said humans should care more about realistic matters on Earth instead.

Musk defended that he didn't mean abandoning Earth in any way. "Less than one percent of the resources should be put on making our consciousness multi-planetary... Seems like a wise investment into the future."

Things Ma and Musk agree on

The two tech gurus were on the same page with regard to the human race's dangerous future of "population collapse", which means the total human population will drop dramatically in the next 20 years possibly leading to catastrophic outcomes.

They also agreed that jobs will become less important with better AI in place.

"With AI, we will have more time to enjoy being human beings," Ma said.

"AI will probably make jobs worthless. Perhaps the last job we need will be writing AI software. And eventually the AI will write its own software," echoed Musk.


Under the theme "Intelligent Connectivity, Infinite Possibilities," this year's WAIC is held Thursday-Saturday. If you happen to be in Shanghai, you can head to the World Expo Center to experience the latest AI products and concepts from all around the world. You can also watch industry leaders of the AI sector discuss the future of this fascinating yet dangerous technology.