Sitting next to Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba, Elon Musk talked about SpaceX's plans to visit Mars. And then he went into full stoner mode.
"I think it’s important for us to take the set of actions that are most likely to continue consciousness into the future," he said. "I think we should not take it for granted that consciousness will continue because we have not encountered any aliens."
It got better:
"Where are the aliens? This is the Fermi Paradox. This is one of the most important questions: how come we have not found any aliens? There are people out there who think that we’ve found aliens. Trust me, I would know, we have not."
That was just part of a weird and sometimes wonderful "debate" between the two billionaires in Shanghai, where they pontificated on jobs, education, and, mostly, argued about the future humans face with artificial intelligence.
Musk said he considered humans to already be something of "a cyborg" thanks to our dependency on phones and computers, but we were doomed in attempts to keep up with AI.
"Assuming a benign scenario with AI, we will just be too slow," he said. "Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds."
In contrast, Ma said he was "quite optimistic" about how AI would benefit humanity.
"I don’t think AI is a threat," he said. "I don’t think AI is something terrible.”
Musk's response: “I don’t know, man, that’s like famous last words.” He added that technology's rate of advancement is "outpacing our ability to understand it.”
This issue came up a bit later when, talking about education, Ma took a humanist approach, saying the focus should be on the arts and growing wisdom: "A computer is just a toy. A computer has chips, man has heart. The heart is where wisdom comes from."