June 24, 2024

Warren Buffett Touted AI’s Potential, Warned of Disruption, Dangers

  • Warren Buffett has touted AI’s huge potential, but warned it may cause serious fallout.
  • The Berkshire Hathaway CEO sees output and cost benefits, but also possible job losses.
  • Buffett has also compared AI to the atomic bomb in terms of the risk of possible misuse.

Warren Buffett has hailed artificial intelligence as a potential game-changer, but warned it could be disruptive, divisive, and dangerous.

AI promises to replace workers and harness new types of knowledge, generating lots of value and giving people more leisure time, the famed investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO has said in interviews and during shareholders meetings in recent years, according to CNBC’s Warren Buffett Archive.

However, the nascent technology could also cause massive upheaval if it causes huge numbers of job losses, and could do enormous damage to the world if it’s used for the wrong reasons, Buffett cautioned.

Here are Buffett’s 7 best quotes about AI, lightly edited for length and clarity:

1. “I think it’s got great potential. The question is, how much better results can you get with it than using human beings, or how many human being can you replace in getting it? Or can you get some entirely new form of information that humans are actually incapable of getting, because they can’t keep every word that’s been written about prostate cancer or something up to yesterday in their minds?”

2. “It can look at X-rays much better and faster than humans can, and read all the literature, zillions of pages. But the biggest value will be when it actually replaces human labor. Machines don’t come round annually and ask for higher wages, and they don’t need healthcare besides a little maintenance. If they replace people in a big way, it would have a lot of value.”

3. “It should result in significantly less employment in certain areas. We’d work a lot less hours a week. And that’s enormously prosocial, eventually. It’s enormously disruptive in other ways. And it can have huge problems, in terms of a democracy and how it reacts to that.”

4. “Without knowing a thing about it, I would think that artificial intelligence would have that hugely beneficial social effect, but a very unpredictable political effect if it came in fast, which I think it could.”

5. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someday we got to the point where there are robots everyplace. They were running farms, they were running Apple, they were running Berkshire Hathaway — and all you had to do was one person could punch a button at the start of every morning, and all the goods and services that we’re getting now would be turned out by robots, or whatever?”

6. “When something can do all kinds of things, I get a little bit worried because I know we won’t be able to un-invent it. We did invent, for a very, very good reason, the atom bomb in World War II. Einstein said, ‘This has changed everything in the world except how men think.’ With AI, it can change everything in the world except how men think and behave.”

7. “I’ve got the cure for it, I’m 86. You don’t worry as much under those circumstances.” (Buffett was addressing concerns about AI rebelling against its creators and behaving maliciously.)

Bonus quote from Buffett’s business partner, Charlie Munger: “I am personally skeptical of some of the hype that has gone into artificial intelligence. I think old-fashioned intelligence works pretty well.”

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