Elon Musk says all jobs will be optional in the future as AI will take care of us — if we're lucky

elon musk in front of image of earth from space
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

We won't need to work in the future, according to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors and the founder of Neuralink. He was speaking during an interview at the startup and tech conference VivaTech 2024.

Speaking of the rapid development of AI over the last few years, Musk was asked about the future and whether there would be jobs for humans in an AI-age. He said that in the most likely benign scenario none of us would have a job but there would be a "universal high income with plenty of goods and services."

Musk says that AI will handle everything for us and humanity will have to work out what to do with its time and energy. "The question won't be one of lacking goods and services, the question will be one of meaning," he said, adding “If the computer and robots can do everything better than you, then does your life have meaning?”.

"Any job that somebody does will be optional. If you want to do a job as a hobby then you can do a job, otherwise the AI will provide any goods and services you want. That is the most likely outcome," Musk said.

Ensuring AI safety

During his hour-long remote keynote Musk also reiterated that he continues to believe that the development of future AI and large language models (LLM) should be paused. He signed a letter calling for this before the release of GPT-4o.

This contradicts with his decision to launch is own AI lab xAI and the Grok chatbot which is "the funniest chatbot" and deeply integrated into X. Musk says a pause is highly unlikely so "it's better to be a participant than a spectator."

Any job that somebody does will be optional. If you want to do a job as a hobby then you can do a job, otherwise the AI will provide any goods and services you want. That is the most likely outcome.

Elon Musk

Speaking again of xAI Musk indicated that he doesn’t agree with most of how AI is being developed right now. “You think of AI as growing an intelligence in the same way you raise a child,” he added. “It matters what you teach, building it with values.”

However, he also added that the potential applications across education can be really profound. Since an AI is patient, knowledgeable, and “almost always correct”, it would make for an excellent teacher for kids — even though parents would still have to be responsible for morals and values.

“It would be like having Einstein for a teacher.” But, he also worries that kids today are being trained by social media, which is essentially governed by a “dopamine-maximizing AI”. Parents should work to limit their kids’ screen time across social media platforms, he said.

Musk thinks the brain-computer interfaces developed by Neuralink could give humans an edge in this race against obsolescence by AI.

Neuralink’s brain-computer interfaces are currently focused on treating long-term disabilities caused by brain and spine injuries. But, the ultimate goal is to develop a high-bandwidth interface that could give human beings an advantage against the rapid development of a digital superintelligence, claimed Musk.

Explaining further, Musk said that we all have a third layer above the limbic system and cortex of our brain that’s responsible for the speed at which we communicate with electronic devices.

“But the rate of communication is very slow. The sustained bits per second output of a human is just 10 bits per second.” Neuralink’s goal is to develop a high-bandwidth interface that could speed up the rate at which humans communicate with electronic devices like phones or computers.

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Ritoban Mukherjee

Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India whose work on cloud storage, web hosting, and a range of other topics has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss.