Jack Ma, an icon of China's Internet era, painted a rosy picture of the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) on Thursday, saying smarter machines will allow humans to better enjoy life.
Ma, executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, held a dialogue with Elon Musk, CEO of U.S. electric carmaker Tesla Inc., at the opening ceremony of the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in east China's Shanghai.
The two illustrious figures in the tech sector exchanged thoughts on topics from AI and future education to Mars missions. While Ma insisted that computers could never outsmart man, Musk believed humans are doomed to fail in the competition of intelligence.
On the looming prospects of AI stealing human jobs and causing massive layoffs, Ma challenged the assumption that there would be a job shortage in the future.
The invention of electricity gave humans more spare time, so "you can go to a dance party in the evening," argued Ma. Likewise, he believes more powerful AI will give humans "more time to enjoy being human beings."
"I think people should work three days a week, four hours a day," Ma said. "I don't think we'll need a lot of jobs at that time. The jobs we'll need are to make people happier, help them experience life and enjoy being human beings."
Meanwhile, AI will be needed for many jobs undesired by human workers, according to Ma. Especially as life science advances are set to push life expectancy over 100, intelligent robots will take up the laborious jobs of caring for the elderly.
Musk said over time AI will make jobs pointless. "Probably the last job that will remain will be writing AI software. Then eventually the AI will just write its own software."
He recommended the study of engineering, physics and human interaction in the coming era of AI.
Ma also said his major concern was education today, which was designed for the industrial period. "We need to change the way we educate, and teach our kids to be creative and constructive," he added.
The 2019 WAIC, running from Thursday to Saturday in China's economic and financial hub Shanghai, aims to boost AI cooperation and innovation globally.