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Elon Musk says humans communicate so slowly with computers that it will sound like whale speech to future AI (TSLA)


Elon Musk

  • Elon Musk is the CEO of three companies: Tesla, Neuralink, and SpaceX. The second of those three, Neuralink, is focused on creating human-computer interfaces to connect artificial intelligence with the human mind and body.
  • Musk is focused on human-computer interfaces because he's worried about the human race getting left behind as AI gets better and better.
  • One major problem Musk pointed to in a talk on AI this week in Shanghai: Humans communicate data far, far more slowly than computers. "Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds," he said.
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There are major language barriers between human beings and computers.

For one, humans communicate with language and text and images — all inputs that are inherently slower at communicating information than straight-up data.

But also, crucially, computers perceive time differently than humans. That's because of their ability to process data at a far higher speed than humans can.


To a computer, "a millisecond is an eternity, but to us it's nothing," Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, said in a wide-ranging conversation about AI in Shanghai this week.

"Human speech to a computer will sound like very slow tonal wheezing, kind of like whale sounds. Because what's our bandwidth — a few hundred bits per second, basically, maybe a few kilobits per second if you're going to be generous?"

In so many words, Musk is saying that human forms of communication — speech, gestures, etc. — are built for communicating with other humans. When those inputs are applied to "speaking" to a computer, they become woefully inadequate.

Computers, however, can communicate data far, far more quickly — "at a terabyte level," Musk said.

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And that communication difference could be a major issue for future AI-human relations, to the point where it would be similar to a tree trying to communicate with a human.

"The computer will just get impatient, if nothing else," Musk said. "It will be like talking to a tree — that's humans."

Check out the full video of the talk with Musk and Alibaba CEO Jack Ma »

SEE ALSO: Elon Musk says the difference between human intellect and AI is comparable to the difference between chimpanzees and humans

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