Elon Musk says AI will make work 'optional' in future

"Probably none of us will have a job," Elon Musk says at a tech gathering
An undated image of Elon Musk. — Freepik
An undated image of Elon Musk. — Freepik

While reflecting on the artificial intelligence (AI) technology and its impacts on the continuously shrinking job market, Elon Musk says artificial intelligence will swipe all our jobs. "Probably none of us will have a job," he Musk said at a tech gathering on Thursday.

Speaking via webcam at VivaTech 2024 in Paris, Musk painted a picture of a future where work becomes "optional."

"If you fancy doing a job that's more like a hobby, go ahead," Musk suggested. "Otherwise, AI and robots will take care of all your needs."

For this setup to succeed, Musk pointed out the necessity for "universal high income" – not quite the same as universal basic income (UBI), although he didn't delve into specifics about what that might entail.

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"In such a scenario, there would be no scarcity of goods or services," he assured.

AI has advanced rapidly in recent years, prompting regulators, companies, and consumers to grapple with how to use the technology responsibly. Worries persist over how different industries and jobs will be affected as AI becomes more widespread.

In January, researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab found that workplaces are embracing AI at a slower pace than anticipated. They also noted that most jobs previously deemed vulnerable to AI weren't cost-effective for employers to automate at that time.

Many experts believe that jobs reliant on emotional intelligence and human interaction will remain safe from automation, such as roles in mental health, creative fields, and teaching.

Musk has been vocal about his worries regarding AI. During the event, he labelled the technology his biggest fear and praised the "Culture Book Series" by Ian Banks as offering a realistic glimpse into a future ruled by advanced AI.

"The real question will be about finding meaning – if computers and robots outperform us in everything, does our existence still have purpose?" he mused. "Perhaps there's still a place for humans here – perhaps we can imbue AI with meaning."

He also took the opportunity to urge parents to restrict children's exposure to social media, cautioning that they are being "programmed by dopamine-maximising AI."