Culture February 13, 2017
Billionaire futurist Elon Musk has painted a bleak vision of the future in which advances in technology will create mass unemployment across the world.
Addressing the World Government Summit in Dubai, the CEO of Tesla and Space X told his audience of international politicians to prepare for some unhappy voters due to the rise of tech.
“There will be fewer and fewer jobs,” he said. “But a lot of people derive their meaning from their employment. If you’re not needed, do you feel useless? That’s a hard problem to deal with. Governments will have to figure out what to do about mass unemployment.”
As with most things, Musk has an answer to the problem. “We will have to have some universal basic income,” he suggested.
The visionary entrepreneur, whose net worth is $13.8 billion, said the first disruptive technology will be fully self-driving cars.
“They will happen much faster than people realize. Within 10 years. It’s going to be like getting in an elevator and saying where you want to go. But it will be very disruptive.”
He explained, “It’s many people’s jobs to drive. Driving in various forms may be the single largest employer. That’s 12-15 percent of the workforce that’s going to be unemployed. So we need to figure out new roles for these people.”
Musk added that there were more than two billion vehicles in the world but as the total new vehicle production capacity is 100 million a year it would take 20 years to reach full automation and, by consequence, full driver unemployment.
Driverless cars are just the start of a wave of changes as artificial intelligence takes its grip and even Musk finds it hard to imagine all that is coming.
He added, “The first controlled flight was in 1903 by the Wright brothers and 66 years later we put people on the moon. If you had asked people in 1900 about going to the moon they’d think that was ridiculous. But change happens fast.
“Forty years ago about the only video game was Pong which was two rectangles and a dot and it was fun but now you have photo realistic video games that millions can play simultaneously. Given the advancements in virtual reality, eventually the video games you play will be indistinguishable from reality.”
Musk, 45, is at the forefront of a range of seemingly outlandish but attainable advancements including the colonization of Mars. He has even said he’d like to die on the red planet.
“It’s not some Mars death wish. But given the choice of where to die, seeing as I was born on Earth I’d choose to die on Mars. But if I do die on Mars, I don’t want it to be on impact.”
Space exploration is important for the ultimate survival of the human race , added Musk, who thinks it’s likely there are aliens out there somewhere.
“It seems probable. If there are superintelligent aliens out there they are probably already observing us and we’re not smart enough to realize it. Maybe they’re among us.
“Some people think I’m an alien. No I’m not. Of course, I would say that wouldn’t I?”
The South African-born tycoon is currently dealing with more immediate issues here on Earth, proposing to build a network of tunnels under major cities like his home base of Los Angeles.
“Most major cities suffer from severe traffic issues and I think a solution to urban congestion is a network of tunnels. Underground is the place to build. The deepest mines are deeper than the tallest buildings.”
With all these projects and visions underway, Musk appears to have a great life. But living in the future as well as the present maybe isn’t as awesome as it seems.
Concluding his remarks in Dubai, he said, “It’s not as much fun being me as you’d think. It could be worse for sure. But I’m not sure I’d want to be me.”
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