Elon Musk on the future of work: “How would we find meaning in life if AI could do your job better?”

Tesla CEO Elon Musk

Getty Images | Diego Donamaria

Elon Musk is worried about the future of his eight children’s careers – especially if his children have to compete with artificial intelligence for their dream jobs.

“How do we actually achieve fulfillment, how do we find meaning in life, if AI can do your job better than it can?” Musk wondered out loud in an interview with CNBC’s David Faber on Tuesday.

Even as the world’s second richest person has expressed his desire to help lead the next charge of artificial intelligence — his automaker Tesla is trying to create fully self-driving cars, and he’s previously discussed using Twitter to build AI tools — he’s expressed concerns about the technology’s future ramifications.

This isn’t the first time: In March, Musk signed an open letter calling for a six-month halt to AI development to ensure systems are implemented ethically, given the “deep risks to society and humanity.”

On Tuesday, he struggled to articulate how the next generation could find value in a world where AI can do everything. “This is a difficult question to answer,” Musk said.

Here are two pieces of advice he said he would give his kids:

In a way, Mask’s most important advice is the same as it was before AI: Follow your passion in a way that can benefit others.

“I would just say, you know, kind of follow their heart in terms of what they find fun to do, or what pleases them,” Musk said. “And try to be as useful as possible to the rest of society.”

The definition of “being useful to society” is changing rapidly. Even before ChatGPT became popular, people were wondering how AI would replace human jobs.

Office and administrative roles may be at risk. So do content creation jobs, from designers to software engineers — although new opportunities may include training and maintaining quality control of the AI ​​systems that create such content.

For jobs that require unique human skills, AI may simply become a tool that makes work easier. These can range from physically demanding roles such as construction to jobs centered around communications such as therapists.

“Jobs that emphasize soft skills are hard to replace with AI,” Dimitris Papaniklaou, a professor of finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, told CNBC Make It in February.

He explained that Musk sleeps six hours a night, works seven days a week, and takes only two or three days off annually.

Apparently, that’s what it takes for Musk to simultaneously run Tesla, SpaceX, and, for now, Twitter — while also owning ventures like Neuralink and The Boring Company. On Tuesday, he wondered if it was all worth it, especially if machines could finally do the most boring parts of those jobs for him.

Despite the pandemic-era movement toward a healthier work-life balance in many industries, the two most notable aspects of most people’s lives still have a strained relationship with one another. Studies have documented the measurable career slowdown that occurs when parents take time off to raise their children, for example.

By automating some daily tasks, AI can give workers personal time without reducing productivity — but executives and managers can simply fill additional employee hours with more work. Musk said he’s already asking himself if it’s good for people’s time.

“I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into building companies,” Musk said. And then I’m like, ‘Okay, should I do this? Because if I sacrifice my time with friends and family but in the end, AI can do all these things, does that make sense? I don’t know.

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