In a high-profile interview with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and owner of X (formerly Twitter), shared his belief that artificial intelligence (AI) will ultimately eradicate the need for traditional jobs.
This revelation came during the conclusion of the AI Safety Summit, where Mr. Musk argued that AI technology would soon be capable of “doing everything,” with human employment becoming a matter of personal choice for “personal satisfaction.”
However, Mr. Sunak, who disagreed with Musk’s assertion, argued that work provides individuals with a sense of purpose and meaning.
The two prominent figures presented contrasting views on the impact of AI on the workforce during the summit, which took place in Whitehall and featured an audience of around 300 business leaders.
Mr. Musk also used the occasion to call for tax incentives aimed at encouraging tech entrepreneurs in the United Kingdom to establish innovative companies. He emphasised the potential benefits of AI, suggesting that AI-driven robots of the future could even become companions to humans. However, he urged the importance of incorporating physical “off switches” into these AI systems in case they malfunctioned.
The “most disruptive force in history”
In his statements, Musk labelled AI as “the most disruptive force in history” when it comes to jobs. He argued, “There will come a point where no job is needed – you can have a job if you want to for personal satisfaction. AI can do everything. I don’t know if that makes people comfortable or uncomfortable. It’s both good and bad. One of the challenges in the future will be: how do we find meaning in life?”
Contrarily, Mr. Sunak characterised AI as a “co-pilot” rather than a replacement for human jobs. He contended, “AI is a tool that can help almost everybody do their jobs better, faster, quicker, and that’s how we’re already seeing it being deployed. I’m of the view that technology like AI, which enhances productivity over time, is beneficial for an economy. It makes things cheaper, it makes the economy more productive.”
The summit also witnessed discussions on fostering entrepreneurship in the UK, with Mr. Musk advocating for low-tax systems that facilitate growth in the AI sector. Mr. Sunak playfully referred to this as a “pitch on tax,” highlighting that capital gains tax in the UK is relatively lower than in Europe and the US.
Both leaders acknowledged the importance of a robust education system, talent, and an openness to the world to drive AI development. Mr. Sunak expressed his desire for people to be more comfortable with risk-taking and entrepreneurship, stating, “It is important to be open to the world.”
Will robots become our friends?
Elon Musk’s remarks extended to the potential for AI robots to become “real friends” due to their extensive knowledge and memory. However, he underscored the necessity of having an “off switch” to ensure AI safety. He also cautioned about the potential dangers of humanoid robots and the importance of regulating AI technology.
The summit concluded with Mr. Sunak’s announcement that a group of “like-minded” countries and the European Union had agreed to collaborate on testing AI technology to assess “potentially harmful capabilities.” This collaborative effort, involving governments and AI companies, seeks to ensure that AI models are vetted for safety, a significant departure from the practice of companies self-regulating their AI technology.
Mr. Sunak stressed the importance of involving intelligence agencies in this process, emphasising the responsibility of sovereign governments. While the agreement remains voluntary, Mr. Sunak acknowledged that “binding requirements” may become necessary to regulate AI in the future.
The UK will oversee the testing through the AI Safety Institute, which will draw upon the expertise of the defense and national security community. The summit also saw the signing of the Bletchley Declaration, which warned of the potential for AI to bring “catastrophic harm” and marked the beginning of a global conversation on AI governance.
In closing, Mr. Sunak expressed his belief that the achievements of the summit would “tip the balance in favor of humanity” by demonstrating political will and capability to control AI technology for the benefit of society.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.