This week saw a significant development in Artificial Intelligence (AI), with a Google program AlphaGo resoundingly beating the human champion at Go. This is significant because, unlike chess, Go is difficult to crack with brute-force search. It requires pretty abstract pattern recognition and (what we have called up until now) “intution”. AlphaGo is based on “deep learning”, which is all the rage in AI at the moment, with many practical applications, from driverless cars to speech recognition. (I have an interest because “deep learning” is versions of artificial neural networks, which have been my area of research and teaching for a couple of decades.)
Given this significant breakthrough in AI we should collectively take a moment to consider the implications for society. Coincidentally another piece in The Guardian today covers a similar topic:
Our tech future: the rich own the robots while the poor have ‘job mortgages’
Artificial intelligence expert Jerry Kaplan says those whose jobs involve ‘a narrow set of duties’ are most likely to see their work replaced by automation
Ever since the first vision of a robot appeared on the horizon of mankind, humans have feared that automation will replace the workforce in our dystopian future.
There typically follows a period of reassurance, in which we are compelled to believe that this will be a good thing, and that robots could actually liberate us from the drudgery of daily toil and free us for more enjoyable, cerebral pursuits. Futurist Jerry Kaplan, 63, is among those optimists. He estimates that 90% of Americans will lose their jobs to robots and we should all be happy about it.
“If we can program machines to read x-rays and write news stories, all the better. I say good riddance,” Kaplan said. “Get another job!”
Less discussed is the observation that inequality will be “a dark cloud” over this period of robotic rule. The robots, Kaplan admitted, will be owned by the rich. “The benefits of automation naturally accrue to those who can invest in the new systems, and that’s the people with the money. And why not? Of course they’re reaping the rewards,” he said. …
Read on for more, including the bizarre sounding concept of “job mortgages”. Will the automation of work be captured by the 1% and increase inequality, or is it a chance (with Universal Income) to free people for an egalitarian and creative future? (Given climate change, will we even get to answer that question?)
I don’t have any answers, but I’m glad that at least one political party is thinking about the issues. Well done Labour for its Future of Work initiative.