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Warren Buffett warned AI is like the atomic bomb, but this expert thinks he's being way too gloomy

Theron Mohamed   

Warren Buffett warned AI is like the atomic bomb, but this expert thinks he's being way too gloomy
  • Warren Buffett's warning that AI is like the atomic bomb is too negative, one expert says.
  • Georgetown professor Babak Zafari compared it to nuclear energy given the benefits and risks.

Warren Buffett's grave warning about artificial intelligence is too pessimistic, according to one expert.

The elite investor compared AI to the atomic bomb during Berkshire Hathaway's annual shareholder meeting this month. He cautioned that humanity was letting another genie out of its bottle.

"The power of the genie scares the hell out of me," Buffett said. "We may wish we'd never seen that genie."

Babak Zafari, an associate professor at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business, suggested nuclear power was a better analogy.

"Like nuclear energy, AI offers benefits for efficiency and advancements in many areas but it also brings substantial risks if not managed carefully," he told Business Insider.

Zafari, an expert in areas like machine learning and natural language processing (NLP) models, trumpeted AI's potential to transform work, creativity, and problem-solving.

Fraud 2.0

Buffett flagged fraud as a major concern during the Berkshire meeting, predicting AI would make scamming the "growth industry of all time."

He joked that one deepfake video of himself was so convincing that it nearly fooled him too: "I practically would have sent money to myself over in some crazy country."

Zafari agreed it was a "serious concern," especially as AI regulation is nascent and the pace and complexity of the tech make it tough for authorities to govern.

The statistics and analytics guru noted the internet stoked similar fears in the 1980s and 1990s. But a combination of imposing and enforcing rules, and teaching people how to protect themselves, allowed the tech to realize its potential and revolutionize global communication, information sharing, and commerce.

Zafari also discussed how AI could affect Buffett's planned successor as Berkshire CEO. Greg Abel will have to navigate the morass of privacy, accuracy, and ethical concerns, but harnessing the tech could boost efficiency and customer engagement in Berkshire's key insurance business, he said.

Moreover, the Georgetown professor tackled the pressing question of whether AI will replace human workers and spark mass layoffs. He suggested it might handle operational and data-driven tasks, freeing up human employees to creatively solve problems and work on innovative projects.

"This shift could lead to more fulfilling roles, potentially reshaping job descriptions to emphasize creative competencies and soft skills, thereby enhancing overall job satisfaction," he said.

Buffett is clearly wary of the dangers of unleashing truly intelligent technology into the world. But he may be underestimating the positive impacts that AI could have if it's managed responsibly.

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