X owner Elon Musk has told Rishi Sunak he believes artificial intelligence (AI) is “the most disruptive force in history” and that eventually “there will come a point where no job is needed”.
The tech billionaire was speaking to the Prime Minister in front of an audience of AI experts and business leaders in London this evening following the government’s landmark AI summit this week.
Asked about the impact of AI on jobs, Musk, who Sunak described as a “brilliant innovator and technologist” told the former Chancellor: “I think we are seeing the most disruptive force in history.
“We will have for the first time something that is smarter than the smartest human. There will come a point where no job is needed
“You can have a job if you want to have a job for personal satisfaction but the AI can do everything.”
He added: “One of the challenges in the future will be how do we find meaning in life. Everyone will have access to this magic genie… [in education] it will be the best tutor, the most patient tutor.”
But he also joked that while the “genie” could give you any wishes you want, the fairy tales rarely end well.
While the future with AI will be an “age of abundance,” with a “universal high income” instead of a universal basic income, the X owner said.
On jobs, Musk says: "I think we are seeing the most disruptive force in history."
Says AI will be "smarter than the smartest human. There will come a point where no job is needed. You can have a job if you want a job for personal satisfaction but the AI can do everything."
— Jessica Frank-Keyes (@JessicaFKeyes) November 2, 2023
The in-conversation event, which is not being broadcast live but is set to be streamed in full on X – formerly Twitter – at 9pm, saw Musk and Sunak discuss the need for AI regulation.
And the Tesla and SpaceX owner said he supported governments playing a role in regulating the pioneering technology.
“I think that it is good for governments to play a role when public safety is at risk,” he said.
He admitted there were concerns in Silicon Valley that regulation could “crush innovation and slow things down and be annoying and it is”.
But he said: “We’ve learned over the years that having a referee is good. I think that’s the right way to think about it – for the government to be a referee.
“I think there might be at times too much optimism about tech and I say that as a technologist.”
Musk also described the pace of AI as “faster than any technology I’ve seen in history” and said “the government isn’t used to moving at that speed”.
And he welcomed the involvement of China, which provoked controversy when Sunak invited the Asian superpower to attend the two-day Bletchley Park summit this week.
“If China are not on board for AI safety it’s somewhat of a moot operation,” he said. “But actually China is going to participate in AI safety and thank you for inviting them.
“When I was in China this year my main discussion was AI safety… this is really something they should care about. Having them here was essential.”
The talk was introduced by Priya Lakhani, founder of AI learning platform CenturyTech, and saw the two men laugh and joke with one another in front of the audience.
The businessman was dressed in black with brown cowboy boots, while Sunak, who is often described as a tech-bro Prime Minister thanks to his love of hoodies and self-confessed ‘geeky’ interests such as Star Wars, wore a shirt and tie – with no jacket.
Musk, who owns social media platform X – which has halved in value since his takeover – has previously been unpredictable, including choosing to do a longform livestream interview with the BBC where he accused the reporter of lying about a rise in hateful content on X.
According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the volume of hate speech on Twitter – now X – has risen since Musk took over, with a “notable bump” in tweets containing slurs.
The sit down followed Sunak’s AI summit where world leaders and top AI firms agreed a new plan to safety test frontier models, including on national security grounds.
So-called ‘AI godfather’ Professor Yoshua Bengio is set to lead a fresh report on the current state of AI science to build a shared understanding of the potential risks.
World leaders and businesses gathered at the home of the World War Two enigma codebreakers and today’s agreement builds on Wednesday’s Bletchley Declaration.
Further AI summits will be held in South Korea, virtually, and in France, in person, next year.
Science and technology secretary Michelle Donelan commented: “The steps we’ve agreed to take will help humanity seize opportunities for improved healthcare, better productivity at work, and the creation of entire new industries that safe and responsible AI is set to unlock.”
And Professor Bengio added: “Safe and responsible development of AI is an issue which concerns every one of us.
“We have seen massive investment into improving AI capabilities, but not nearly enough investment into protecting the public.”