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Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg
Tech billionaires Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are feuding over AI. (SpaceX / Facebook Photos)

Techies, grab some popcorn: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and SpaceX/Tesla CEO Elon Musk are throwing shade at each other over what Musk considers the scariest issue facing humanity: the rapid rise of artificial intelligence.

It all started last week at the National Governors Association’s summer meeting in Rhode Island, where Musk complained that policymakers and tech leaders weren’t sufficiently worried about AI.

“I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street, killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said.

Over the weekend, Zuckerberg basically said Musk was being reckless.

“I have pretty strong opinions on this,” Zuckerberg said in response to a question that came up during a backyard barbecue edition of Facebook Live. “I am optimistic.”

“I think you can build things, and the world gets better. But with AI especially, I am really optimistic, and I think people who are naysayers and try to drum up these doomsday scenarios … I don’t understand it. It’s really negative, and in some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg said that AI would deliver “so many improvements in the quality of our lives” over the next five to 10 years – including autonomous vehicles (a technology that Musk’s Tesla electric car venture is pioneering) and medical diagnoses (which is an interest of the nonprofit Chan Zuckerberg Initiative).

He acknowledged that “you need to be careful” about how AI is used. “But people who are arguing for slowing down the process of building AI … I just find that really questionable,” Zuckerberg said. “I have a hard time wrapping my head around that.”

Musk returned the volley with a zinger on Twitter early today:

Lars Osborne, from Bothell, Wash.-based Tethers Unlimited, egged Musk on:

Musk had an intriguing response:

Was Musk being serious? If so, the filmmakers could enlist an all-star cast of technical advisers – including Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and celebrity physicist Stephen Hawking voicing qualms similar to Musk’s, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and the executives at IBM Watson and Google DeepMind providing perspectives more in line with Zuckerberg’s view.

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