A few days ago (at time of writing), the UK held an AI Safety Summit, an event intended to bring leaders and professionals together in order to discuss the potential benefits and dangers of AI.
At that event, Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister of the UK, spoke to technology entrepreneur and tech billionaire Elon Musk, who’s often considered to be at the forefront of the AI revolution (in some respects, at least).
The two touched on a number of subjects pertaining to AI, but what did their conversation mean for AI and the wider world? What did they discuss, and what can we draw from it when it comes to AI?
Let’s take a look at the conversation held between Rishi Sunak and Elon Musk and what we might infer from this rather unusual interaction!
According to Elon Musk, AI will remove the need for work
One of Elon Musk’s biggest points during his conversation with Rishi Sunak pertained to what AI will mean for the world of work.
According to Musk, AI will eventually make paid work a thing of the past, which is something that many young professionals currently appear to be worried about.
Musk said that this will lead to challenges regarding “how…we find meaning in life”.
This is a common refrain that’s being repeated around the world when it comes to AI, and it’s an issue that many thinkers and tech influencers are concerned about as well.
AI could be a potential friend to humanity, says Musk
Amongst the doomsaying, though, there were some positive conclusions that could be drawn from the talk between Rishi Sunak and Elon Musk.
One of those conclusions is that AI could be a positive force for change when it comes to those who find it difficult to socialise.
Musk said that one of his sons “has trouble making friends”, although he didn’t specify which son he was referring to.
He then said that AI could be “great for [his son]” as a friend.
In addition, Musk pointed to the potentially positive applications of AI in a tutoring capacity, saying that it could act as “the best and most patient tutor” for kids.
Of course, as is often the case with Musk, the conversation generally took unknowns and potential outcomes into account rather than focusing on what’s happening right now.
Still, Musk clearly holds some degree of optimism towards the AI revolution, and although Rishi Sunak was ostensibly there to ask Musk questions about the tech industry and the impact of AI on the world, he seemed to share Musk’s optimism at times as well.
It’s hard to imagine Elon Musk took the talk seriously
Prior to the talk with Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk shared a rather irreverent meme on X (previously known as Twitter).
The meme takes the form of a political cartoon in which the UK, the US, the EU, and China are discussing the merits or drawbacks of AI.
All four of them seem to agree that AI presents a “catastrophic risk to humankind”, but they are all privately thinking that they cannot wait to be the first to develop said technology.
On the surface, this is a satirical dig at the AI Safety Summit itself, and it seems to suggest that Musk doesn’t exactly hold the Summit or its attendees in high esteem.
In addition, some of Musk’s remarks regarding the dangers of AI didn’t seem to be particularly considerate.
He suggested that AI could lead to the development of humanoid robots that “can chase you anywhere”, which is a rather alarming statement.
Sunak, in response, told Musk he wasn’t “selling this”, perhaps in a semi-humorous way, but it’s hard to imagine that Musk was being anything other than facetious.
Not much of substance was actually decided
During Sunak and Musk’s talk, there was a lack of concrete decision-making regarding the kind of dangers AI could pose to those who use it.
The two discussed some of the potential applications of AI and some of the challenges that tech firms and innovators will face in its implementation, but they didn’t come to any serious conclusions about what that could mean for the UK’s political landscape or that of the wider world.
If you’re a critic of Musk’s, you’re probably not surprised by the idea that he could participate in a discussion and not actually reach any conclusions of lasting value or impact.
Rishi Sunak, however, also didn’t seem to want a discussion that led to real outcomes; instead, he seemed rather happy to simply discuss AI with Musk.
To some, it could indeed have appeared that Sunak was basking in Musk’s aura, and that Musk was the one who held the real power in the discussion.
Conclusion: what does it mean?
In the grand scheme of things, this talk is, unfortunately, unlikely to result in anything serious changing in the world of AI.
To a cynic, this conversation could read as a back-slapping session between a Prime Minister who many say is on the way out and a tech entrepreneur who is arguably more powerful than many governments are.
To an optimist, however, it could read as Rishi Sunak reaching out in order to engage with professionals who are more knowledgeable than he is on certain subjects and touching base regarding AI.
One thing’s for sure: this debate isn’t going away, and it’s difficult to imagine how a conversation between these two men could really have arrived anywhere conclusive or decisive.