Hope has not vanished yet!
With all contemporary technological disruptions, celebrated so much by many experts, for instance by late Clayton Christensen, and with all the praises for new technologies piled up on the altar of automation and AI, we still ask the following two questions with a profound anxiety:
- Do we really observe the phenomenon of job replacement when new jobs are created in the process of disappearing the old ones?
- Can we really say that AI brings about many spin-off technologies and therefore triggers the emergence of new industries, occupations and livelihoods for people?
Daron Acemoğlu (Professor at MIT) is not alone in his skepticism regarding the recent advancements in information technologies and artificial intelligence. Basing his assertions on long-term and statistically sound research he contends that the above questions cannot be answered in the affirmative. It may come as a stunning discovery for all the computer and robot enthusiasts that altogether, when we do not focus on the IT sector exclusively, jobs become unviable for people and the creation of new jobs is definitely lagging behind. What is even worse is that AI has turned out to have very narrow applications. The new electricity, as AI was called by Kevin Kelly, as one of many, is not electricity at all. Electricity helped us create many industries, transform agriculture, change factories, provide us with myriads of appliances, etc. The application of AI are much more limited (which may be hard to believe by all those who see the world through their new smart phones and all the apps installed there).
The lack of job replacement and the narrow character of AI are deeply troubling. Each new significant technology is disruptive by nature and potentially may bring about both good and bad ramifications. Ultimately it belongs to people to shape the impact on the new technology on society. If we do not undertake radical actions today AI and cognate technologies will deepen inequality, divide people (e.g. the educated vs the less educated), lower productivity, increase the power of big companies, etc.
Martin Wolf (a famous journalist on economic issues) and Daron Acemoğlu do not tell us what actions actually we ought to engage into. They present, however, compelling and eloquently phrased arguments which all of us should think about and draw our own conclusions. Their discussion may be watched here.
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