The Debate over Artificial Intelligence

Elon Musk (Left) and Mark Zuckerberg (Right)                Source: MarketWatch

Article by Maximilian Printz

Recently there has been a lot of controversy over the rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI), and tech giants, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, have been two of the main spokes persons in the argument over it. Elon Musk is wary about the possible negative consequences of highly advanced AI that may end up hurting us. On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg is more optimistic about AI and believes that it can help the human race develop.

From this debate, there have been many interesting and compelling issues brought up by Musk and Zuckerberg to reinforce their stances.

Elon Musk’s main contention is that he believes AI should be heavily regulated in order to ensure people’s safety. He put it as, “Nobody likes being regulated, but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that’s a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too” (David). This statement shows that Elon Musk is not completely against AI, but believes that we have to be cautious when developing it by setting up regulations. Regulation, however, may cause frustration in the developers of AI as they will not have complete freedom over their work. While Elon Musk may seem pessimistic, it is important to consider the implications of the highly advanced AI that he is talking about. We should especially be aware of the fact that this warning came directly from Elon Musk, who has a very advanced understanding of AI: “I have exposure to the most cutting edge AI, and I think people should be really concerned by it. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization” (Clifford). Elon Musk believes that the use of AI is so risky that he even compares it to the current situation with North Korea. “If you’re not concerned about AI safety, you should be. Vastly more risk than North Korea” (David). Elon Musk’s highly negative viewpoints on AI are so interesting because many of his work focuses on the development of AI, like the driverless cars he produced through Tesla. If Elon Musk is so worried about AI that he openly shows his fear even if though his opinions contradict his company’s’ goals, perhaps we should worry too.   

On the other hand, Mark Zuckerberg disagrees with Elon Musk and he believes that people should be optimistic and excited by the possibilities of AI,

“I have pretty strong opinions on this … I think you can build things and the world gets better, and with AI especially, I’m really optimistic. I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios are — I just, I don’t understand it. It’s really negative and in some ways I think it is pretty irresponsible” (Vincent).

This quote seems to indicate Mark Zuckerberg is more mellow in his opinion about AI, claiming that “naysayers” are just wrong instead of claiming that he is completely right. Nonetheless, Mark Zuckerberg still makes his position clear and supports his argument well, “My goal was to learn about the state of artificial intelligence,” Mark Zuckerberg said, “where we’re further along than people realize and where we’re still a long ways off” (Petroff). Mark Zuckerberg accentuates the importance of understanding at what stage the development of AI is at before deciding what to do next.

Both Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg make strong contentions supporting their stance on AI, but for now, no one knows with certainty what exactly will happen when and if we have highly advanced AI. What is certain, however, is that we should be conscious about the power of AI and the possible consequences of creating it. So, it is good that there are debates over this topic spreading awareness. We may not yet be able to determine what to do next as we are not too close to the point of achieving highly intelligent AI, but these debates are preparing us for what is to come. I believe that the best path that we should take now is to continue educating people about AI and determine a consensus on what to do next. It is all of our responsibilities to realize this and advocate for what we believe is right.


Work Cited

Clifford, Catherine. “Mark Zuckerberg Doubles down Defending A.I. after Elon Musk Says His

Understanding Is ‘Limited.’” CNBC, CNBC, 26 July 2017, 9 September 2017

David, Javier E. “Be Very Afraid: Elon Musk Says People Should Fear A.I. More than North

Korea.” CNBC, CNBC, 14 Aug. 2017,

Petroff, Alanna. “Elon Musk Says Mark Zuckerberg’s Understanding of AI Is ‘Limited’.”

CNNMoney, Cable News Network, 25 July 2017, 11 September 2017

Vincent, James. “Elon Musk Dismisses Mark Zuckerberg’s Understanding of AI Threat as

‘Limited’.” The Verge, The Verge, 25 July 2017, 9 September 2017