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Steve Wozniak Does Not Share Elon Musk's Dire View of AI

By Daniel B. Kline - Updated Oct 25, 2017 at 10:22AM

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The tech pioneer does not believe robots are going to lead to the end of humanity.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak does not believe artificial intelligence (AI) presents a significant danger to the future of mankind.

That's a very different view than the one shared repeatedly by another technology pioneer, Tesla's (NASDAQ: TSLA) Elon Musk. The serial entrepreneur behind SpaceX and Hyperloop, as well as the electric vehicle company, recently told the National Governors Association Summer Meeting that he has seen the most cutting-edge AI technology and believes that people should be "really concerned about it."

He believes that most people simply have not considered the real dangers. "... until people see robots going on the street killing people, they don't know how to react because it seems so ethereal," he said. "We should all be really concerned about AI."

Musk has also said that competition between nations for AI superiority will most likely be the cause of World War III. Wozniak simply does not agree.

A toy robot on top of a pile of other toys.

Image source: Getty Images.

What did Woz say?

Wozniak was the featured speaker in a session at the Money 20/20 trade show in Las Vegas as part of a day-long "deep dive" into AI put together by Feedzai, an AI company focused on enterprise-level fraud prevention. In his 40-minute talk, a very good-natured Woz (as he's sometimes called) presented a very different opinion from Musk's.

"We get to run the machines," he said. "We have never talked about a single AI machine that would sit and think, 'What should I do? What problem should be solved?' "

Wozniak, who once shared Musk's dire views on AI, said he has changed his mind recently. Earlier in October, he spoke in Moscow and delivered comments that were very similar to what he said at Money 20/20.

"I thought out the physical realities -- what we would have to do to make machines that are truly dangerous to humankind -- and there are too many steps in the way," he told an audience at Moscow State University, RT.com reported. "And one of the biggest is that we don't know how the human brain really works."

Both in Russia and in Las Vegas Wozniak did suggest treating AI-based robots who think like you'd treat a beloved pet that could someday be your master. He even suggested "Woz's Law," his take on science fiction author Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics," which were designed to keep robots from harming people. Woz's Law is designed to offer AI-based robots similar protections. "A human being shouldn't be allowed to harm a thinking robot," he explained.

What about our jobs?

Wozniak does see the rise of AI as inevitable, but he's not concerned about the impact it will have on the workforce. At Money 20/20, he likened it to any other technology since the industrial revolution that causes a change in how people make a living.

"If you're scared of AI, how are you going to stop it from happening? You can't. You'll just get in the way of the steamroller," he said. "The idea of new technology replacing jobs has been around for hundreds of years. It is a scare story."

Still be vigilant

While Wozniak does not share the end-of-world thinking Musk believes in, he's not oblivious to the dangers. Instead, he chooses to believe that despite the temptations, mankind will reign itself in, building in the needed fail-safes to prevent a Terminator-like future.

It's certainly a more optimistic attitude, but it's rooted in the idea that robots, AI or not, won't on their own be a danger to humanity. That, he explained, would require humans' intervention, and as has been the case with nuclear weapons, Woz believes mankind will keep itself from that brink.

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