TECHNOLOGY

Weekender

Tech billionaires differ on AI

ALIBABA’S Jack Ma and Tesla’s Elon Musk took opposing views of the risks and potential rewards of artificial intelligence (AI) at a recent event in Shanghai.
The Chinese entrepreneur said he was “quite optimistic” about AI and thought it was nothing for “street smart” people like them to be scared of.
“I don’t know man, that’s like famous last words,” responded Tesla’s chief.
Musk added that technology was evolving faster than our ability to understand it.
The two did, however, agree on one topic: that one of the biggest problems the world is facing is population collapse.
The businessmen are two of the most influential tech leaders shaping the world today.
US-based Musk made his fortune at the digital payments firm PayPal before going on to run electric car-maker Tesla, space rocket company SpaceX and tunnel-transport business The Boring Company among other ventures. He also helped create OpenAI, a San Francisco-based AI research company, although he has since broken ties with it.
Ma co-founded Alibaba, which rivals Amazon for the title of the world’s largest e-retailer and is also one of the world’s largest cloud computing providers. The group is one of the world’s biggest spenders on AI, both within its own business as well as via investments in dozens of third-party companies.
Their 45-minute conversation kicked off the World AI Conference (WAIC), which ties into China’s goal of overtaking the US to become the world’s leading artificial intelligence innovator by 2030.
Less work
Ma focused much of his comments on how machine learning could act as a force for good. He said it was something “to embrace” and would deliver fresh insights into how people think.
“When human beings understand ourselves better, then we can improve the world better,” he explained.
Furthermore, he predicted AI would help create new kinds of jobs, which would require less of our time and be centred on creative tasks.
“I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day,” he said.
“In the artificial intelligence period, people can live 120 years.
“At that time we are going to have a lot of jobs which nobody [will] want to do. So, we need artificial intelligence for the robots to take care of the old guys.
“So that’s my view about jobs, don’t worry about it, we will have jobs.”
By contrast, Musk suggested that mass unemployment was a real concern.
“AI will make jobs kind of pointless,” he claimed.
“Probably the last job that will remain will be writing AI, and then eventually, the AI will just write its own software.”
He added that there was a risk that human civilization could come to an end and ultimately be seen as a staging post for a superior type of life.
“You could sort of think of humanity as a biological boot loader for digital super-intelligence,” Mr Musk explained.
“A boot loader is… sort of like the minimal bit of code necessary for a computer to start.
“You couldn’t evolve silicon circuits. There needed to be biology to get there.”
To avoid such a fate, he said we needed to find a way to connect our brains to computers so that we could “go along for the ride with AI” – something he is trying to achieve via one of his latest start-ups.
Otherwise, he cautioned, AI would become weary of trying to communicate with humans, as we would be much slower thinkers in comparison.
“Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds,” Mr Musk explained.
“What’s our bandwidth? Like a few hundred bits per second, basically, maybe a few kilobits per second, if you’re going to be generous.
“Whereas a computer can easily communicate at a terabit level. So, the computer will just get impatient if nothing else. It’ll be like talking to a tree – that’s humans.
“It will be barely getting any information out.”
By contrast, Ma acknowledged that AI could now beat humans at games like chess and Go, but claimed computers would only be one of several intelligent tools that we would develop in time.
“Don’t worry about the machines,” he said.
“For sure, we should understand one thing: that man can never make another man.
“A computer is a computer. A computer is just a toy.
“Man cannot even make a mosquito. So, we should have a confidence. Computers only have chips, men have the heart. It’s the heart where the wisdom comes from.”
Although Ma acknowledged that we needed to find ways to become “more creative and constructive”, he concluded that “my view is that [a] computer may be clever, but human beings are much smarter”.
Musk responded: “Yeah, definitely not.
“It’s going to get to the point where [AI] just can completely simulate a person in every way possible, like many people simultaneously,” he added.
“In fact, there’s a strong argument, we’re in the simulation right now.”
Towards the end of the event the two men came together on one point – that concerns about overpopulation were misguided.
“Assuming… there’s a benevolent future with AI, I think that the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse,” said Musk
“I want to emphasise this, the biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse, not explosion collapse.”
Ma said he was absolutely in agreement.
“One point four billion in China sounds a lot, but I think [over the] next 20 years we’ll see this thing bring big trouble to China,” he said.
“And the speed of population decreasing is going to speed up. Now you’ve got a collapse.”
However, he suggested, using AI to help people live longer, healthier lives could be part of the solution. – BBC


Lunar rover discovers strange substance

Yutu-2 thinking “I hope there aren’t aliens in that crater” – Picture courtesy of China National Space Administration.

CHINA’S Yutu-2 rover, launched as part of the Chang’e 4 mission, is the first-ever robot to explore the far side of the moon. Since landing in January, it’s snapped gorgeous views of the lunar surface and made one unexpected discovery. Now, it’s made another surprising find: an unusual substance with a “gel-like” appearance hidden inside a crater.
According to a report by Space.com, the rover’s surprise discovery was made during exploration activities on lunar day 8, which began on July 25. Each lunar day lasts for two Earth weeks and during this time the solar-powered rover carries out scientific observations, measures radiation and surveys its surroundings.
Three days into day 8, a member of the Chang’e 4 team was reviewing images taken during by the rover and noticed a strangely colored material, distinct from the gray soil around it. So, the team instead turned its attention toward the substance and sent the rover towards the crater for a better look. The Yutu-2 “drive diary” says the team commanded the rover to point its spectrometer, a device which can evaluate the composition of materials, towards the unusual substance.
The team didn’t indicate what the substance might be and they haven’t shared an image of the weird material. The team did, however, share an image of the rover heading for the crater to have a gander at what’s inside.
I know you’re thinking aliens but Andrew Jones, a journalist reporting on the Chinese space programme, wrote that one possible explanation is that the gel-like substance is melted glass, created after a meteor strike.
China’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft landed on the moon on Jan. 3. Shortly after it sent back the very first photos of moon’s far side. The Yutu-2 rover is now in it’s ninth lunar day, which began on Aug. 25. – CNET


Samsung Galaxy Fold coming out today
Caption: Samsung’s Galaxy Fold may see the light of day next Friday.
Angela Lang/CNET

THE redesigned folding phone comes to South Korea today as IFA kicks off in Berlin.
We’ve known for a while that Samsung plans to release its redesigned Galaxy Fold in September, but Korean news agency Yonhap may have revealed the exact date: Sept. 6. The company has talked to three telecoms about that date, Yonhap reported. Tt happens to be the first day of the IFA 2019 trade show in Berlin, which would give Samsung a platform for an announcement.
The $1,980 foldable phone was originally meant to go on sale on April 26, and preorders sold out on the first day. But four days before that date, Samsung delayed the release of the phone after reviewers reported screen breakages, flickering and bulging.
We got a look at a render of the redesigned Fold last month — it showed that the screen, internal structure and hinge area have been reinforced.
Huawei’s rival foldable, the $2,600 Mate X, was originally due to arrive in September as well, but the company reportedly said we’re unlikely to see it before November.
Samsung didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. – CNET

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