Artificial intelligence is more likely to save humanity than to destroy it, Jeff Bezos said recently. The billionaire also said he would like to see the human population grow to one trillion, with most people living in huge cylindrical space stations.
In an interview with podcaster Lex Fridman, the Amazon
founder and former CEO rejected the idea that humans should colonize other planets, saying he believes building space colonies is the only way to achieve such population growth.
“I would love to see a trillion humans living in the solar system. If we had a trillion humans, we would have, at any given time, 1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins,” he said. “The only way to get to that vision is with giant space stations. The planetary surfaces are just way too small.”
Bezos, who has a net worth of $172 billion, said that if people lived on O’Neill space colonies near Earth, built using raw materials from the moon and objects in the asteroid belt, they could visit our current planet on vacation.
The concept of O’Neill colonies was developed by science-fiction writer Gerard K. O’Neill as a solution to the problem of livable environments in space. The space stations, designed as two cylinders that rotate around an axis, would offer an artificial Earth-like environment and use rotation to simulate gravity.
Bezos’s vision is in opposition to that put forward by Tesla
CEO Elon Musk, who is currently the richest person in the world. Musk has said that he hopes that humans will become a “multiplanetary species” and that he aims to colonize Mars via his company SpaceX.
In Bezos’s vision, space colonies would help support a population that is 125 times the size of the Earth’s current population.
He said people would be free to choose whether or not to live in space, but those who opted for the O’Neill colonies would “’be able to use much more energy and much more material resources in space than they would be able to use on Earth.”
Bezos said people living in space would still have the opportunity to travel to Earth on vacation, in the “same way that you might go to Yellowstone National Park.”
He acknowledged that he “won’t live long enough to see the fruits” of his efforts to colonize space, saying that the personal rewards of his work with space company Blue Origin “come from building a road to space.”
In the interview, Bezos also put forward an optimistic vision of the future of artificial intelligence, despite warning it has the potential to be “incredibly destructive.”
AI has the potential to save humans from going extinct, and people who are “overly concerned” about the dangers of the technology “may be missing part of the equation,” he argued.
“Even in the face of all this uncertainty, my own view is that these powerful tools are much more likely to help us and save us, even, than they are to, on balance, hurt us and destroy us,” Bezos said.
AI has the potential to help humanity develop “better medicines and better tools to develop more technologies,” which could ensure its long-term survival, he said.
Musk, in contrast, has repeatedly raised concerns about the dangers of AI and has said it poses a risk to humanity.
Despite their differences, Bezos said he thinks Musk “must be a very capable leader” in view of his successes with SpaceX and Tesla.
“I don’t really know Elon very well. I know his public persona, but I also know you can’t know anyone by their public persona. It’s impossible. You may think you do, but I guarantee you don’t,” Bezos said.
Bezos also warned about the dangers of nuclear weapons and climate change. “We need to start training ourselves to think longer term,” he said.
He talked about his childhood, saying that working on his grandfather’s ranch in Texas helped him develop a “problem-solving mentality.”
Between the ages of 4 and 16, Bezos spent summers on the ranch in order, he said, to give his mother — who was 17 years old when Bezos was born — a break. He did a variety of chores while taking daily breaks with his grandfather to watch the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”
Bezos said the resourcefulness he developed on the ranch helped him in his path to becoming an inventor, adding that he hopes what he creates will be taken for granted in the future.
“That’s an inventor’s greatest dream, is that their inventions are so successful that they are one day taken for granted. Nobody thinks of Amazon as an invention anymore,” Bezos said.
“Nobody thinks of customer reviews as an invention. We pioneered customer reviews, but now they’re so commonplace. Same thing with one-click shopping and so on. But that’s a compliment,” he said. “You invent something that’s so used, so beneficially used by so many people, that they take it for granted.”
The entrepreneur also said that while he was at Princeton University, an encounter with a fellow student from Sri Lanka convinced him not to pursue a career as a theoretical physicist. Bezos realized, he said, that “your brain has to be wired in a certain way.”
He recalled how the student was able to solve a “difficult partial differential equations problem” — one that Bezos and a fellow student had been working on for three hours without making any headway whatsoever — in seconds.