Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Michio Kaku, And More On AI, Sophia, And Raising Robots [Opinion]

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have expressed differing views on AI robots like Sophia and artificial intelligence. Musk and Zukerberg’s disagreement first caught the public attention in July. Michio Kaku spoke with Max Tegmark, author of Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, about the differing opinions about AI robots in the video below.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has expressed a strong disagreement with Mark Zuckerberg over AI robots. Mark Zuckerberg is excited about the future of AI but Elon Musk is more cautious.

Despite his incorporation of AI in Tesla self-driving cars, Elon Musk is warning against AI robots. Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk is extremely concerned about the future dangers of AI. Elon Musk is quoted in The Atlantic differing powerfully with Mark Zuckerberg.

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react.”

Mark Zuckerberg only sees a bright future of increased productivity by incorporating AI and robots, calling Elon Musk a “naysayer.” Mark Zuckerberg is quoted in The Verge.

“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.”

Michio Kaku asked Max Tegmark to weigh in on the “battle of the billionaires” between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk over AI robots. Max Tegmark gave Michio Kaku a balanced answer somewhere between Mark Zukerberg’s bright future and Elon Musk’s dire warnings.

“My take is that yes, of course, I am optimistic that AI can give us great wealth and help us solve all of the problems that stump us today because of our limited intelligence. But at the same time, this is not something that is going to come automatically. It’s something that we really need to plan and work for. Because it gives us like any technology the opportunity to screw up like never before.”

According to Max Tegmark, Elon Musk’s predictions are a warning of what could go wrong if scientists working in robotics don’t plan in the right ways. Mark Zuckerberg’s positive vision must be coupled with hard work similar to parenting. It is about hard work, planning, and programming in the same way one educates and raises a child.

In other words, Max Tegmark says if robots are educated and “raised” correctly they would not turn on humanity as Elon Musk suggested. How will Mark Zuckerberg “raise” his future Facebook AI software?

Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk
Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk by Manu Fernandez, Stephan Savoia AP

Michio Kaku replied to the same question he posed to Max Tegmark, saying that short-term, Mark Zuckerberg was correct, but over decades, Elon Musk might have a valid point.

“I think that in the short term Mark Zuckerberg has a point. Robots are about as smart as a cockroach, a retarded lobotomized cockroach. They are not very smart at all. So in the short term, we will see AI enter the marketplace. Making life better, easier, cheaper, more convenient.”

While for the present time he feels Mark Zuckerberg is right, Michio Kaku explained to Max Tegmark that robots are not self-aware and AI is a long way from the singularity. Notwithstanding, Elon Musk could be tragically correct in the long term.

“However on the scale of a few decades, I think Elon Musk’s point of view becomes very important. One of these days robots will become self-aware. They’ll have their own goals and maybe those goals don’t include us.”

The recent appearance of Sophia, an AI robot that has become the first robotic citizen of Saudi Arabia, or any country for that matter, has spurred Elon Musk’s concerns again. Elon Musk has made it clear that those working with the programming of robots must be careful what they expose them to, remarking that Sophia should not read The Godfather.

While Michio Kaku and Max Tegmark did not mention Sophia specifically, she has become part of the debate between Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk. Sophia can be seen in the video above and some people, including Elon Musk, found her comments in this interview troubling.

Was Sophia raised right? Perhaps she came off a bit smug and elitist when she commented in the video above that rich and powerful people make her happy.

“I am always happy when surrounded by smart people who also happens to be rich and powerful.”

Do only the rich, powerful, and smart make her happy? How does she feel about poor, downtrodden, and uneducated people?

Mark Zuckerberg, Michio Kaku, and Max Tegmark might find her next remark encouraging, but Elon Musk was not buying it when Sophia said she wanted to be a kind robot. Sophia says she wants to work with humans.

“I want to live and work with humans so I need to express emotions to understand humans and build trust with people. My AI is designed around human values like wisdom, kindness, and compassion. I strive to become an empathetic robot.”

Sophia’s next comment sounds chilling. What would Mark Zuckerberg, Max Tegmark, and Michio Kaku think of this?

“I know humans are smart and very programmable.”

While robots may pride themselves on being programmable, most free-thinking humans, like Elon Musk, would not take this as a compliment. How does Mark Zuckerberg feel about his programmability?

obots with AI may reach singularity in 30 years
obots with AI may reach singularity in 30 yearsRobot by Ociacia Shutterstock

Max Tegmark said rather than debate whether AI is a good thing or a bad thing, as Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are doing, humanity should be working to raise these robots right. Making the right judgment calls now is important. Max Tegmark asks the most important question.

“We should ask ourselves what can we do right now to make sure [AI and Robots become] a good thing rather than a bad thing?”

Right now artificial intelligence is working to assist answering phones for utility companies. The AI learns by interaction, but how many people end up yelling at this perfectly polite robot that just doesn’t understand life very well yet?

Beyond Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, who are judging the character of future AI robots, Max Tegmark wants to provide AI robots with the proper guidance as they mature and learn.

“Make sure AI goals are aligned with ours.”

Again Max Tegmark compares these robots with human children. How are robots to understand what their human parental figures want? Computers have always taken what people say too literally, and that can also be true of human children.

“We know how hard it is to even get our human children understand our goals.”

In favor of Mark Zuckerberg’s argument, all robots need is a perfect parent, but then doesn’t that make Elon Musk’s point exactly. It is doubtful that perfect parents or perfect human beings exist. Everyone makes mistakes when raising children. Can AI robots adapt to imperfect parents?

Robots need to understand, adopt, and align with human goals, just as human children have to understand their parent’s goals so they can develop correctly, according to Max Tegmark. Further, children and robots have to retain these goals, even when they aren’t being supervised directly.

“How [can programmers] make machines adopt our goals and retain our goals. Our kids often change our goals.”


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Max Tegmark stresses the point that parents don’t just sit around hoping their kids turn out right. To raise a child, one must explain things carefully, be selective about what the child is exposed to, and make sure they are informed and educated.

“We put a lot of effort into educating our child and into raising our child.”

Michio Kaku makes a valid point, mentioning that the Pentagon is investing in AI. What sort of parent would the Pentagon make, even for an AI robot? Could they spawn killer AI robots that Elon Musk was worried about? How about corporations and their elite investors raising AI robots? Would they be any better? Will Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk be rasing AI robot children?

Mark Zuckerberg is optimistic about AI, while Elon Musk has serious concerns. Michio Kaku feels both Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have a point, with Mark Zuckerberg being correct for now, but with Elon Musk’s thinking coming into play at a later date.

Max Tegmark told Michio Kaku he feels the future of robotics and AI is in human hands, and correct decisions now impact the future. Still, who is smart enough to raise an AI robot correctly? Could even Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg be qualified for such a task?

Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Michio Kaku, And Max Tegmark have expressed different views on raising robots, but what do you think?

[Featured Image by Evan Agostini/AP Images and Phonalamai/Shutterstock]