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Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg clash over risks of artificial intelligence

Future of artificial intelligence
Tech moguls butt heads over the future of artificial intelligence 04:48

Two tech billionaires are clashing over the future of artificial intelligence.

Tesla co-founder Elon Musk warned this month that AI is a "fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization."

"I keep sounding the alarm bell but, you know, until people see robots going down the street killing people they don't know how to react, 'cause it seems so ethereal," Musk said at the National Governors Association.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticized those comments, without referring to Musk by name, during a Facebook Live broadcast from his backyard.

"I think that people who are naysayers and kind of try to drum up these doomsday scenarios are – I don't understand it. It's really negative and in some ways I actually think it's pretty irresponsible," Zuckerberg said.

Musk fired back Tuesday in a tweet: "I've talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited."

The editor of Fast Company magazine, Robert Safian, told "CBS This Morning" Wednesday, "I think they're both right and they're both wrong."

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Safian pointed out that there are a lot of words used when referring to artificial intelligence, or the ability of computers to "learn" from a growing body of data to improve their accuracy over time. "Artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive computing. We use different words to describe the same thing, sometimes we use the same word to describe different things. All this gets confusing in this way."

Safian acknowledged that technological advances can make people "anxious."

He called Musk's concerns a "doomsday-oriented scenario" but also said that what the SpaceX CEO is really talking about is a need for "more oversight and some sort of regulatory apparatus to make sure technology and AI develops in a certain way."

The tech moguls' differing "philosophical point of view" also contributes to their disagreement on this issue, Safian said.   

"Now, Mark Zuckerberg believes that – one of the things he loves about technology and software is you can constantly improve it. So if there's a problem we'll fix it. That's sort of Mark's approach to things," Safian said.

Despite their disagreement, both Musk's and Zuckerberg's businesses rely on the advancement of artificial intelligence.

"Remember Elon Musk is the guy who wants to, you know, have us live on other planets, right? And that may happen but it's a long time until that happens. What do we put in place between here and there to make sure this technology is used in an effective way. And that's really what Elon is trying to encourage us to think about," Safian said. "These things always happen. In the long lens of history technology has always improved the human condition."  

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