Elon Musk: AI will make jobs “pointless”, so focus on people and art

A lot has been said about the future of work in a world where AI will be super-intelligent and omnipresent.

According to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, AI will make jobs pointless, so it’s time to consider what’s next for humanity.

“Probably the last jobs that will remain will be […] writing AI software and then eventually the AI will just write its own software”, he said during a discussion with Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma at the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai.

Owing to that, he recommends studying engineering, physics, art or working in an area which involves human interaction.

Yet, even those fields don’t seem to have remained immune to automation. Robots, from Japan to the UK, are already taking care of the elderly and even taking a stab at writing poetry and composing music ad infinitum.

Numerous reports suggest that AI will displace millions of jobs in the next years. A research by global consultancy group McKinsey & Company shows that some 400 million workers are likely to be displaced by automation between 2016 and 2030.

Companies have already started putting practices in place in an attempt to address these trends. In July 2019, Amazon said it planned to invest more than $700 million to upskill 100,000 employees by 2025.

“Insane” rate of change

Even Musk who is at the forefront of the technological developments is amazed at the rate of acceleration and change. He gave example with video games which have made a giant leap in the past decades. From simple graphics with two squares in a box, they have turned into “photorealistic real-time simulations with millions of people playing simultaneously.”

“Just in general the rate of advancement of computers is insane”, he said adding that in the future these simulations will be indistinguishable from reality.

“Either that or civilization will end”, he predicted.

In his opinion, given this “incredibly fast” rate of technological changes, computers are quickly outpacing our ability to understand them. He, further, surmised that humans are simply a tool intended to give birth to superintelligence.

“I mean it seemed to me some time ago that you could sort of think of humanity as a biological bootloader for digital super intelligence.” A bootloader being “the minimal bit of code necessary for the computer to start”, as explained by him.

Not only doom and gloom

Yet, technology is undoubtedly creating unprecedented opportunities for mankind, expanding our capabilities, cognition and improving our prospects of tomorrow.

Apart from the worrying shifts in the labor market, experts are pointing out that AI will generate many jobs that don’t exist today. A 2018 research by the World Economic Forum showed that while automation may displace 75 million jobs by 2022, it will create 133 million new ones globally.

Musk also echoed the upbeat sentiment.

“I’m a naturally optimistic person, to be clear. I’m not saying “Hey doom and gloom”. I’m just saying that this is the apparent pattern.”.

Watch the full discussion here