Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are having a spat about whether or not artificial intelligence is going to kill us all.
Musk, the chief of Tesla and SpaceX who has longstanding worries about the potentially apocalyptic future of AI, recently returned to that soapbox, making an appeal for proactive regulations on AI. “I keep sounding the alarm bell,” he told attendees at a National Governors Association meeting this month. “But until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react.”
In a Facebook Live broadcast, Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, offered riposte. He called Musk a “naysayer” and accused his doomsday fears of unnecessary negativity. “In some ways I actually think it is pretty irresponsible,” Zuck scolded. Musk then retorted on Twitter: “I’ve talked to Mark about this. His understanding of the subject is limited.”
Seeing the CEOs of publicly traded tech companies go at it like Tay and Kanye is unfamiliar territory. Open sneers between public figures is normally reserved for tabloid socialites or feuding celebrities. But this is 2017—the president attempts to enact policy via Twitter, after all—so expectations must be adjusted. Rappers and reality-television stars feud because their prosperity is directly yoked to their public image. That’s true for tech business leaders now, too. Musk and Zuckerberg aren’t engaged in a debate about ideas. They are peacocking their personal identities in order to serve their future interests.