WHALE HELLO THERE. Elon Musk thinks you sound like a total chumpback.
Not you specifically, you understand, but humans in general – or they will to future generations of AI which will end up thoroughly frustrated listening to the low-bandwidth way in which we transmit data from our fleshy blowholes.
“To a computer… a millisecond is an eternity, but to us it’s nothing,” Musk said in a streamed chat with fellow billionaire Jack Ma at the World AI Conference in Shanghai. “Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds. Because what’s our bandwidth — a few hundred bits per second, basically, maybe a few kilobits per second if you’re going to be generous?”
Ah, so that’s why Alexa sometimes fails to understand the most routine requests.
If being compared to a whale leaves you feeling, uh, blue, then you may want to turn to close the window now, because an even less flattering analogy is just around the corner.
“The computer will just get impatient, if nothing else,” Musk continued. “It will be like talking to a tree — that’s humans.”
Yeah, it was a strange debate, as the clip below shows:
This weird 90 second clip of the Ma-Musk debate perfectly captures the bizarre mood of the entire thing. Note: the topic of this moment of the debate was, allegedly, jobs. pic.twitter.com/EtR3iFvx0m
— Marcus Gilmer (@marcusgilmer) August 29, 2019
Unsurprisingly for a man who sees AI as more dangerous than nuclear weapons, Musk was generally a bit down on AI, which made Ma, the executive chairman of Alibaba, feel like a sunny optimist in comparison. “I don’t think AI is a threat,” he said. “I don’t think AI is something terrible.”
“I don’t know, man, that’s like famous last words,” Musk replied, adding that the speed of technological advancement is “outpacing our ability to understand it.”
You can watch the whole discussion here if you really want, but it’s probably best viewed as finally answering the question of event planners everywhere: “do we need to pay a moderator for this panel?” Yes, you absolutely do. µ
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