Every year since 2013, the world’s most powerful leaders and forward-thinking innovators have gathered in the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for the World Government Summit, an event dedicated to helping mold the governments of the future. Attendees work together to identify potential problems and then determine ways that today’s technology can be used to alleviate those challenges.
Past events have featured such speakers as U.S. President Barack Obama and World Economic Forum Founder Professor Klaus Schwab, and this year, everyone’s favorite tech visionary Elon Musk leant his expertise to the proceedings.
In a plenary session appropriately titled “A Conversation with Elon Musk,” the Tesla CEO spoke on everything from sustainability and electric cars to Mars colonization and the dangers of artificial super-intelligences (and the brain implants that may very well save humanity).
While talking about the future of transportation, Musk reiterated his previous claim that a universal basic income (UBI) may be necessary to counter widespread job loss due to vehicle automation, which he sees becoming the norm in the next decade or two. “The single largest employer of people is driving in various forms…” he claimed. “Twenty years is a short period of time to have something like 12-15 percent of the workforce be unemployed.”
Musk also spoke on the potential challenges of such a system:
I think universal basic income will be necessary, but the much harder challenge is: How will people then have meaning? A lot of people derive meaning from their employment. If you’re not needed, what is the meaning? Do you feel useless? That is a much harder problem to deal with. How do we ensure the future is a future that we want, that we still like?
Musk reiterated some of his previously shared beliefs on the dangers of AI during the Summit, as well. “I think we need to be very careful in how we adopt artificial intelligence and that we make sure that researchers don’t get carried away,” he stated. “Sometimes what will happen is a scientist will get so engrossed in their work that they don’t really realize the ramifications of what they’re doing.”
Thankfully, Musk also shared some thoughts on how we could mitigate those dangers. “I do think there is a path to having some sort of merger of biological intelligence and machine intelligence,” he said, which would solve the problem of us losing control over these AIs.
The speaking engagement at the Summit wasn’t Musk’s only reason for being in Dubai — he was also in the city for the official launch of Tesla in the UAE. The launch will bring a Tesla pop-up shop to Dubai Mall, as well as a major monetary investment in the area.
“We expect to invest tens of millions of dollars in the UAE for charging, service, and support infrastructures,” said Musk. “By next year, you’ll be able to travel anywhere in the GCC with an electric vehicle.”
While Musk seemed confident enough to make that short-term prediction, he was sure to say during his speech at the Summit that forecasts about the distant future are highly unlikely to pan out just how we expect. “Any predictions we can make today about what the future will be like in 50 years will be wrong,” he insisted.
Of course, if anyone is in a position to make an educated guess, it’s Elon Musk.