Elon Musk And Mark Zuckerberg

It sounds like a line from science-fiction: Two of the world’s most famous technologists are butting heads over artificial intelligence.

Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg have very different ideas on what qualifies as “AI,” according to a recent Vanity Fair Article detailing whether popular male tech figures believe in a forthcoming AI apocalypse. Their debate underlies a bigger one facing the industry: nobody can agree on what the term means.

There are generally two schools of thought when talking about whether software today (read: not an imaginary future killer robot) is a form of artificial intelligence: literalists and generalists.

Musk is a literalist. When asked about Zuckerberg’s Jarvis,  a bot that mainly handles home-automation tasks like controlling the thermostat or picking music to play, Musk replied dismissively.

“I wouldn’t call it AI to have your household functions automated,” Musk told Vanity Fair. “It’s really not AI to turn the lights on, set the temperature.”

What Musk means is that one, cohesive artificial intelligence isn’t considering Zuck’s request, understanding what he means, and then turning off a light. In reality, Zuckerberg’s voice is being sent to a speech recognition algorithm, which then transcribes some text, then read by a separate algorithm to determine what the text is asking, and its decision initiates a separate piece of code that turns on a light.


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