• Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt has shot down Elon Musk’s doomsday vision of AI.
  • Speaking at VivaTech in France, Schmidt said Musk “is wrong” because he “doesn’t understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter.”
  • He added that Alexander Graham Bell did not let the potential drawbacks of the telephone get in the way of his invention.

Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google’s parent company Alphabet, pushed back against Elon Musk’s doomsday vision of AI’s threat to humanity while speaking at a tech conference in Paris.

Musk, the CEO of Telsa, is a vocal skeptic of artificial intelligence, and last month imagined a nightmare scenario in which the technology morphs into a tyrannical regime.

“At least when there’s an evil dictator, that human is going to die. But for an AI, there would be no death. It would live forever. And then you’d have an immortal dictator from which we can never escape,” Musk said in the documentary “Do You Trust This Computer?”

Schmidt has a more optimistic view of AI, which he laid out at the VivaTech conference in Paris, France, on Friday. The Alphabet board member was asked directly about Musk’s opinions by Maurice Lévy, the chairman of advertising agency Publicis Groupe. He said:

“Elon is exactly wrong. My position is clear. He’s wrong. And he’s wrong because he doesn’t understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter. The fact of the matter is that artificial intelligence and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity. It makes every citizen smarter, from the best educated to the least. It allows you to live longer, with less pain, less disease.

“It allows you to make economic systems and social systems be more fluid. Over and over again making people smarter is a net good. He is concerned about the possible misuse of this technology and I am too, but today the overwhelming benefit of this is positive.”

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Schmidt added that other great inventors did not let the potential drawbacks of their creations get in the way of innovation. He highlighted Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone.

“You would not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people. You would build a telephone and try to figure out a way to police the misuse of the telephone,” Schmidt said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was also asked about Musk’s skepticism of AI at VivaTech on Thursday. He said: “AI is going to unlock a huge amount of positive things, whether that’s helping to identify and cure diseases, to help cars drive more safely, to help keep our communities safe.”

Schmidt’s comments comment as he is increasingly being kept in the dark about major AI projects at Google. He did not know, for example, that the company was working with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence until hearing about it in the media, according to military blog DefenseOne.com.