UK AI Safety Summit: Musk likens AI to ‘magic genie,’ says no jobs needed in future

The United Kingdom’s global summit on artificial intelligence (AI) safety, the AI Safety Summit, concluded on Nov. 2 with a one-on-one chat between U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and billionaire Elon Musk. 

Musk was one of many big names to attend the summit, including heads of OpenAI, Meta, Google and its AI division DeepMind, along with leaders from 27 countries. Musk’s nearly hour-long chat with Sunak was one of the main events of the second day.

Their conversation touched on everything from AI risks to China and opened with Elon Musk likening the emerging technology to a “magic genie.”

“It is somewhat of the magic genie problem, where if you have a magic genie that can grant all the wishes, usually those stories don’t end well. Be careful what you wish for.”

Both mentioned these intelligent bots needing a physical “off-switch” and drew parallels to science-fiction movies like The Terminator. “All these movies with the same plot fundamentally all end with the person turning it off,” Sunak said.

Musk commented: 

“It’s both good and bad. One of the challenges in the future will be, how do we find meaning in life if you have a magic genie that can do everything you want?”

This was brought up after governments and AI companies came to an agreement to put new models through official testing before their public release, which Sunak called a “landmark agreement.”

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When asked about AI’s impact on the labor market, Musk called it the most “disruptive force in history” and said the technology will be smarter than the smartest human. 

“There will come a point where no job is needed. You can have a job if you want to have a job for personal satisfaction, but the AI will be able to do everything.”

“I don’t know if that makes people comfortable or uncomfortable,” Musk concluded.

In addition, Musk commented on China’s inclusion in the summit, saying their presence was “essential.” “If they’re not participants, it’s pointless,” he said. 

“If the United States and the U.K. and China are aligned on safety, then that’s going to be a good thing because that’s where the leadership is generally.”

Over the past year, the U.S. and China have gone head-to-head in the race to develop and deploy the most advanced AI systems.

When Sunak asked Musk what he believes governments should be doing to mitigate risk, Musk responded:

“I generally think that it is good for the government to play a role when public safety is at risk; for the vast majority of software, public safety is not at risk. But when we talk about digital super intelligence, which does pose a risk to the public, then there is a role for the government to play to safeguard the public.”

He said while there are people in Silicon Valley who believe it will crush innovation and slow it down, Musk assured that regulations will “be annoying,” but having what he called a “referee” will be a good thing. 

“Government to be a referee to make sure there is sportsmanlike conduct and public safety are addressed because at times I think there is too much optimism about technology.”

Since the rapid emergence of AI into the mainstream, governments worldwide have been rushing to find suitable solutions for regulating the technology. 

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