Sitting cross-legged on a dirty, formerly cream-colored couch in his garage, Hotz philosophizes about AI and the advancement of humanity. “Slavery did not end because everyone became moral,” he says. “The reason slavery ended is because we had an industrial revolution that made man’s muscles obsolete. For the last 150 years, the economy has been based on man’s mind. Capitalism, it turns out, works better when people are chasing a carrot rather than being hit with a stick. We’re on the brink of another industrial revolution now. The entire Internet at the moment has about 10 brains’ worth of computing power, but that won’t always be the case.
“The truth is that work as we know it in its modern form has not been around that long, and I kind of want to use AI to abolish it. I want to take everyone’s jobs. Most people would be happy with that, especially the ones who don’t like their jobs. Let’s free them of mental tedium and push that to machines. In the next 10 years, you’ll see a big segment of the human labor force fall away. In 25 years, AI will be able to do almost everything a human can do. The last people with jobs will be AI programmers.”
Hotz’s vision for the future isn’t quite as bleak as The Matrix, where robots mine our bodies for fuel. He thinks machines will take care of much of the work tied to producing food and other necessities. Humans will then be free to plug into their computers and get lost in virtual reality. “It’s already happening today,” he says. “People drive to work, sit in front of their computer all day, and then sit in front of their computer at home.” In 20 years, the sitting in front of the computer part will be a lot more fun, according to Hotz, with virtual worlds that far exceed anything we’ve managed to build on earth. “Stop worrying about the journey,” he says. “Enjoy the destination. We will have a better world. We will be able to truly live in a society of the mind.”
Hotz started the autonomous car work because he sees it as Step 1 in the revolution. Transportation is an area where AI can have a massive impact. He hopes to take his technology to retail next, building systems that provide flawless self-checkout at stores. His desire to have AI take over so many jobs stems partly from a near-religious belief in the power and ultimate purpose of technology. “Technology isn’t good or bad,” he says. “There are upsides like nuclear power and downsides like nuclear bombs. Technology is what we make of it. There’s a chance that AI might kill us all, but what we know is that if you’re on the other side of technology, you lose. Betting on technology is always the correct bet.”