Finding Common Ground in the World of AI

Under sparkling towers next to the Huangpu River, is the World Artificial Intelligence Conference. It assembles throngs of AI luminaries, laden with clout and credentials, and once again proves VR inventor Jaron Lanier’s luminous apercu: AI makes you stupid.

Elon is an exponent of the Future Shock thesis: “The rate of change of technology is outpacing our ability to understand it.”

“AI will be to humans,” he says, “as humans are to chimpanzees.” We won’t be able to understand the machines at all.” They will leave us baffled, out of work, and on the beach, perhaps garnering a guaranteed annual income, “if they are nice.”

“I hope they are nice,” Elon said with a fruity lilt.

But he offers a solution in Neuralink. This is his company inventing broadband interfaces for the brain, connecting us physically to AI. Implanted at strategic points in our nervous system, Neuralinks will upgrade us to the status of super chimps.

We’ll be able to upload any skill or sensation or knowledge base in seconds from the “cloud” to the brain. We’ll bypass Google search and prestidigitory thumbs on our smartphones and become super-broadband extensions of our marvelous new Musk machines.

With all of us lining up for the implants like queues of pot heads outside newly legal “cannabis” dispensers, we’ll experience a new kind of blinkered bliss.

The future will divide the world between pot heads blissing out and Neuralink chip heads blissing in.

The Truth Behind this Tech Giant’s Claims

“Better leave for Mars” may be your conclusion after listening to Elon. He is not exactly clear, but he seems to say that the only way for humans to preserve their precious “consciousness” from the ravages of AI is to populate nearby planets.

Elon does generously offer us some relief from any worries about these predictions, or nearly anything else he might have to say. He says we may be living in an advanced computer simulation.

According to his calculations, our carbon existence may merely be a sham contrived by superior silicon beings with “exaflop powers.” Our lives may only be dynamic features of avatars in a video game played by superior AI beings from outer space.

As Jaron says, AI makes you stupid.

Before you buy in to Neuralink bliss, you may also want to scrutinize the terms and conditions.

Elon may not be liable for any bad trips like he is when Tesla’s self-driving features fail. At least, his simulation theory gives him an ironclad alibi for the court: he is out of his mind.

No doubt, Elon is a genius of sorts and an entrepreneurial hero. But despite his Stanford “college smarts” — he shows no aptitude for philosophical analysis.

On the business side, he had a report from his allegedly troubled Shanghai “Gigafactory.” This is where they manufacture his 1,200 pound batteries that can provide all the energy of 60 pounds of gasoline.

Musk said he is stunned by how fast the Gigafactory has been built. He said, “Hat’s off to Tesla in China.” He also pointed to great progress by entrepreneurial rocket companies in China, competing with his SpaceX. We should suspect this competition will not be good for Elon’s companies. We can expect further petitions for subsidies.

Future Shock: Jack Ma Versus Elon Musk

Back to AI making you stupid — how else can you explain the climax at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference? It was a “debate” between Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, now abruptly retired into a plush UN sinecure, and Elon Musk of Tesla, SpaceX and Neuralink, ready to land on Mars and put implants in your mind. Beyond the reach of the UN, he wants to save human consciousness from the depredations of AI and other perils.

Jack Ma of Alibaba disdains Musk’s “college smarts.” Better are “street smarts,” retorted Ma, who thinks Elon should cool it. “Why are you so curious about Mars,” he asked, “there’s nothing there.”

Elon believes in safety first. With a calculable risk of the destruction of the earth, perhaps by planet change or runaway AI, he thinks we have a possibly “small window” of opportunity to become a “multiplanetary species.”

Ma’s view was “good luck with that”, he’d rather solve problems on earth. Removed from control at Alibaba and divested of substantial wealth as a result of mysterious Chinese machinations, possibly by the government, Ma has had time to do some thinking. He is enjoying a sinecure with the UN Commission on Digital Cooperation.

He made trenchant comments on AI. “It is no threat. It will create jobs like all previous technologies.”

AI is “clever” he said. It is “knowledge based” or just data-based. Human intelligence is “smart”. “Smart is experience-based.” AI is just computers and chips, processing fast but actually knowing nothing. “It’s logic. But humans are life.”

Musk’s case relied on the usual examples of AI playing games, beating human world champions in chess and the Asian strategic game of Go.

Games, though, are deterministic, like mathematics or other logical systems.

You see, games solve the fundamental problem of AI. It’s programmed with symbols. Just as maps are not the same as territories, symbols are never the same as the objects they point to. They have to be interpreted by human beings.

In games, the symbols are the same as the objects. In Go, the black and white stone pieces do not point to a reality beyond themselves. They are the reality. Shuffled at billions of times a second, they always give the right answers.

As Ma explained, games are made for human interpreters to compete with each other. “It’s stupid to have humans compete with machines,” he said. “It’s like a human trying to race a car.”

Ma concluded, “Computers have chips; humans have hearts.”

“Humans provide the dreams behind the machines,” he said, “humans provide love.”

Elon agreed, sort of.

Imagine love in the form of an exciting undulation of broadband brainwaves fed from a Neuralink interface between your mind and body.

Today’s Prophecy

The two tech titans then converged on an important mutual prophecy that I think is true.

The challenge for the future will not be overpopulation, but a likely “population collapse.” The chief threat to China, Ma said, is not too many people or too smart AI, but no babies. “People do not want to have babies.”

The Chinese bore only 80 million babies last year, nowhere near enough to reproduce the population.

Elon agreed. We are forgetting the human “boot-sequence,” Musk said. “Boot sequence” is his piquant computer word for sex.

“I choose life,” he concluded.

After exchanging tributes to one another, they walked off into the sunset singing what seemed to be Beatles songs.

“Love is the answer,” they agreed.

Neither Musk nor Ma will be dominant in Life After Google, but Ma’s “street smarts” will prevail over Musk’s “college smarts” in the future of artificial intelligence.


George Gilder
Editor, Gilder’s Daily Prophecy

You May Also Be Interested In:

George Gilder

George Gilder is the most knowledgeable man in America when it comes to the future of technology — and its impact on our lives.

He’s an established investor, writer, and economist with an uncanny ability to foresee how new breakthroughs will play out, years in advance.

And he’s certainly no stranger to the financial newsletter...

View More By George Gilder