A school yard fight is brewing between the big players in artificial intelligence development. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and SpaceX has fired shots at the Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, claiming on Twitter that the CEO’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”
I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 25, 2017
The comment was made in response to Zuckerberg's conversation with fans via Facebook Live. The social media mogul responded harshly to fans that presented ideas about legislation and restrictions on AI technology to safeguard against unethical development.
This is a topic close to Musk, who has in the past called the progress of AI, “biggest risk we face as a civilization.” He continued this theme at a meeting of U.S governors earlier this year saying, “AI is a rare case where we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive because if we’re reactive in AI regulation it’s too late."
Facebook wants to lead AI research
Facebook is committed to AI, and it is becoming a huge part of the company's business plan. Zuckerberg is a fan of home automation and is obviously invested in keeping the discussion around AI development light and cheerful. He was quoted by a Silicon Valley Business Journal as saying “I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways, I actually think it is pretty irresponsible.”
AI terms are still not clear
The conflict between Zuckerberg and Musk stems from the fact they are drawing on two different definitions or understanding of AI. Musk is considered an AI literalist and he dismisses the Facebook home automation technology, Jarvis. Telling Vanity Fair “I wouldn’t call it AI to have your household functions automated. It’s really not AI to turn the lights on, set the temperature.”
Zuckerberg, on the other hand, is an AI generalist and refers to all tech that has some AI components under the same umbrella. This is likely to do with his background in opening up tech capability to a non-tech audience.
Clear and open debate on AI is essential
It is clear the future of AI needs to be debated and discussed with opinions from all sides given room to breathe. However, perhaps Twitter and Facebook Live are not the best format for this mature conversation. What we can be sure of is when two of the biggest names in tech start to talk about the same thing, there will be a lot of people ready to sit up and listen. Whether you are on the Zuckerberg or Musk camp, it can be generally agreed that it is critical for governments at all levels to be informed on the development of new AI technology.
This isn’t the first time that Zuckerberg and Musk have locked horns. In 2016 a Facebook Satellite was destroyed when its SpaceX rocket exploded on launch in Florida. The satellite was part of Facebook’s Internet.org global connectivity program.