Humans need not apply: The economics of AI
An interesting series of discussions have appeared throughout the blogosphere over the last few days focused on the question of economics in a future dominated by Artificially Intelligence. An article by Kevin Drum in Mother Jones magazine ignited the debate claiming the human race would soon be out of work.
In his article – – Welcome, Robot Overlords. Please Don’t Fire Us? – Drum put forward the case that as humans we are increasingly forced to compete against machines designed to perform better and smarter than us. The idea that machines may one day take over is not new but the article argues that this trend has already started and it is merely the blindness of statisticians and economists that has prevented it from being seriously discussed so far.
The economics community just hasn’t spent much time over the past couple of decades focusing on the effect that machine intelligence is likely to have on the labor market. Now is a particularly appropriate time to think about this question, because it was two centuries ago this year that 64 men were brought to trial in York, England. Their crime? They were skilled weavers who fought back against the rising tide of power looms they feared would put them out of work.
The crux of the article is that the trend for human unemployment has already started and that while we may discuss issues such as job training or access to opportunities we are ultimately on a one way path that can only lead to less and less jobs for humans.
There was general consensus that the rise of AI capable of doing human jobs was inevitable but the solutions were varied. In his article for Forbes – Inequality In The Robot Future – Karl Smith, writes that no matter what sophisticated machines are developed there remains hope in the form of legal frameworks that recognize humans as fundamentally different from intelligent machines.
Birth is something that happens to a minority of beings who are special, flesh and blood humans.
An article in The Atlantic by Noah Smith – The End of Labor: How to Protect Workers From the Rise of Robots – pointed to the potential for inequality between the largely unemployed masses with little hope of earning money and the owners of the machines who would have a virtual license to print money. He suggests a solution that would endow all humans with rights to the robotic means of production.
What if, when each citizen turns 18, the government bought him or her a diversified portfolio of equity?
An article on the topic published in The Economist – In the long run, we are telepathic androids –echoed many of these concerns and suggested that the solution to the problem lay with clear delineation of intelligence in a distributed system. While the article predicted that there was scope for humans to survive financially the question was raised as to what exactly separates a human from a machine in a world where brains and servers are super-connected.
What the rise of artificial intelligence means for economies around the world has driven some vigorous debate and looks unlikely to recede, with many definitions and areas of legislation still to be explored.
Lochlan Bloom lives in London and does not have a cat or a dog. He is a writer of fiction and non-fiction and has completed recent projects for BBC Radio Scotland, H+ Magazine , Ironbox Films and Calliope, the official publication of the Writers’ Special Interest Group (SIG) of American Mensa, amongst others.
The BBC Writersroom describe his writing as ‘unsettling and compelling… vivid, taut and grimly effective work’. He currently has a feature length script in production with Porcelain Film. His novella, Trade, is out now.
For more details visit www.lochlanbloom.com.