Elon Musk and UK PM Rishi Sunak delve into AI safety, China, and the future of work at AI summit
Musk and Sunak’s open chat stressed the potential and risks of AI technologies, the necessity for nations to cooperate with the tech sector and civil society on AI safety, and the profound transformations that AI is about to unleash on individuals and society as a whole.
Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, and Rishi Sunak, the British Prime Minister, had a wide-ranging conversation on AI, China, killer robots, and the meaning of life at the end of the AI summit hosted in the UK. The interview-style debate between Sunak and the guest star was held at Lancaster House in central London and played on social media platform X. They covered several key topics:
- China’s engagement in AI safety: Musk welcomed China’s participation in the summit and voiced his desire to see Beijing align with the UK and the US on AI safety. He emphasised that if all three were aligned, it would benefit the rest of the world.
- AI and the future of work: the tech billionaire forecasted that advanced AI could render employment as we know it today obsolete. He suggested that in an AI-driven ‘future of abundance,’ not everyone would need to work due to advanced forms of AI. He admitted that this could make us feel both comfortable and uncomfortable.
- AI safety measures: Sunak and Musk agreed on the potential need for tangible ‘off-switches’ to prevent us from losing control over AI-powered robots. Musk advocated for a ‘referee’ and an ‘off switch’ that must be built into the models to ‘throw it into a safe state’.
- AI’s potential advantages: Musk highlighted the potential benefits of AI, such as its use as a patient tutor for online learning and as a friend for those who struggle with social interactions.
- The meaning of life in an AI-dominated world: Tesla’s CEO suggested that one of the challenges in the future will be finding meaning in life. He likened advanced AI to a ‘magic genie’ that could fulfil any desire, remarking that this could be both good and bad.
- Sunak’s investment call: The UK Prime Minister used the opportunity to make a direct investment pitch when Musk noted that startup businesses needed substantial rewards to take risks in the sector. Sunak’s response was, ‘We very much have a tax system that supports that.’
Why does it matter?
Musk and Sunak’s open chat stressed the potential and risks of AI technologies, the necessity for nations to cooperate with the tech sector and civil society on AI safety, and the profound transformations that AI is about to unleash on individuals and society as a whole. Musk’s appearance at the AI summit and open remarks with Sunak are not his first with global leaders, having recently met with French President Macron, Indian PM Modri, and Turkish President Erdogan. It is a testament to his undeniable influence in technology and industrial matters, as well as in global affairs. His presence immediately boosted the level of media awareness of the UK summit, which helped cement PM Sunak’s reputation and his country’s position as one of the leaders in global AI governance.