Innovation

Schmidt: Musk 'doesn't understand' AI benefits for job creation, economy

Schmidt said that Musk's view of AI is 'exactly wrong,' and that the technology will go a long way towards making citizens smarter.

At least one tech expert isn't buying into Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk's predictions of an artificial intelligence (AI) apocalypse. At the VivaTech conference in Paris on Friday, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that he believes Musk is "exactly wrong" when it comes to the impact of AI on society, as reported by our sister site ZDNet.

Musk has long been critical of AI, calling the technology "far more dangerous than nukes," and saying that it will lead to World War III—even as the Tesla factory has one of the most robotic-driven assembly lines in the world. However, Schmidt said at the conference that Musk fails to understand the benefits that the technology will bring in terms of making every human being smarter.

"AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity, it makes every citizen smarter from the best educated to the least," Schmidt said. "It allows you to live longer, with less pain, less disease. It allows you to make economic systems and social systems be more fluid. Over and over again, making people smarter is a net good."

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of artificial intelligence (Tech Pro Research)

Schmidt did acknowledge, "[Musk] is concerned about the possible misuse of this technology and I am too." However, this doesn't mean that tech companies should not continue advancing AI research and applications, he added.

Schmidt—now a technical advisor for Google's parent company, Alphabet—said he was not concerned about people being left behind due to AI advances, because, like computers, these algorithms will become easier for everyone to use in the future. AI also has the potential to increase the productivity of smaller workforces in economies with an aging population by addressing the skills shortage, he added.

"The best things that the governments can do is assist in the research funding and the development of these new solutions. As they emerge, they will benefit all of us—and I mean the people who think they're in trouble too, because it makes them smarter," Schmidt said at the conference.

With an aging population in the US and Europe, there will likely be "too many open jobs" with the rise of AI, he added. He also argued that AI will be a "net positive for jobs." This echoes research from Gartner, which predicted that AI will eliminate 1.8 million jobs by 2020, but will create 2.3 million in that same timeframe.

Schmidt did acknowledge that AI remains a limited solution in some areas. For example, the technology will not be able to be used to its full potential in Africa until each of the 57 nations there can solve basic infrastructure issues, like internet connectivity, he said at the conference.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:
  • At the VivaTech conference in Paris, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said he believed that Elon Musk's approach to AI is "exactly wrong" and does not recognize the benefits the technology will bring.
  • Schmidt said he believes that the benefits of AI will outweigh the negatives, and will include job creation.

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Image: iStockphoto/PhonlamaiPhoto

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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