The consequences of machine intelligence
October 28, 2012
In their 2011 book, Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argued that “technological progress is accelerating innovation even as it leaves many types of workers behind,” says Rice University professor of computational engineering Moshe Y. Vardi in The Atlantic.
“While the loss of millions of jobs over the past few years has been attributed to the Great Recession, it now seems that technology-driven productivity growth is at least a major factor. … “While technology has been destroying jobs since the start of the Industrial Revolution, yet new jobs are continually created.
“The AI revolution, however, is different than the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century machines competed with human brawn. Now machines are competing with human brain. Robots combine brain and brawn. We are facing the prospect of being completely out-competed by our own creations.
“Another typical answer is that if machines will do all of our work, then we will be free to pursue leisure activities. I do not find this to be a promising future. First, if machines can do almost all of our work, then it is not clear that even 15 weekly hours of work will be required. Second, I do not find the prospect of leisure-filled life appealing. I believe that work is essential to human well-being.
“Third, our economic system would have to undergo a radical restructuring to enable billions of people to live lives of leisure. Unemployment rate in the US is currently under 9 percent and is considered to be a huge problem.”
“Finally, people tell me that my concerns apply only to a future that is so far away that we need not worry about it. I find this answer to be unacceptable. 2045 is merely a generation away from us. We cannot shirk responsibility from concerns for the welfare of the next generation.
“It is time, I believe, to put the question of these consequences squarely on the table. We cannot blindly pursue the goal of machine intelligence without pondering its consequences.”