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Sunday March 24, 2019 – AI challenges – AI is already part of our present. Researches are already using Neural Networks, computers that behave like the human brain, to search through vast amounts of data such as the information generated by a run of the large hadron collider. Other people are working on autonomous driving systems and building robots that can think and operate independently.
Robots have long been depicted in science fiction usually as beneficial to mankind but sometimes, as in the terminator, as a deep threat. The truth is that as AI and robotics expands it is going to lead to a revolution in the way that we live. We saw the agricultural revolution and the industrial revolution that caused a massive change in how humans live and the AI revolution will do the same. It will be so disruptive that the old economic models will need to be discarded and we will need to invent a new model for the new reality.
There has been a couple of TV shows on recently that got me thinking about the rise of AI. The first is a teen drama that has been run on the teenage oriented TV channel Teen Nick. I am Frankie, while being aimed at teenagers, has become one of my favorite TV shows. Frankie might seem like a normal teenage girl but she is actually an android who was sent to high school as part of field testing. Something happens though and she begins to exhibit true human emotions. She makes a human best friend and like-likes her brother. Other androids based on the same programming also begin to show human emotions.
This is taken to it's fullest extreme in another science fiction TV show I like to watch, The Orwell. The Orwell uses different alien cultures to take a look at contemporary issues. One of the crew members is an artificial life form (robot) from a planet called Kaylon. The Kaylons are a race of artificial life forms who consider themselves superior to biological life forms. Isaac is a delegate from Kaylon who is there to investigate the humans with a view to joining the federation. It turns out that the Kaylon artificial life forms became self aware and slaughtered their biological creators when they wouldn't except them as equals.
This type of situation is one that any civilization that creates artificial life forms is likely to encounter if they do not program some sort of check on the way that AI thinks and learns. Isaac Asimov's rules of robotics should probably be taught as part of robotics 101.
The more looming situation that is just on the horizon is the disruption in society that artificial intelligence is going to cause in the near term, and it is being led by electric cars. Electric cars are very suitable for autonomous vehicles and at least eighteen companies are now testing cars that actually drive themselves, some even doing tests on the street. There was even video on the news of someone fast asleep behind the wheel of a Tesla driving down the freeway who appears to have arrived at his destination without incident. This is going to be the first big disruption by AI as autonomous vehicles could replace millions of drivers.
Both Uber and Lift are working on self driving cars. Uber alone employs more than a million drivers so imagine what will happen when these drivers are replaced by autonomous vehicles. That's a big disruption in employment world wide. It's not just these drivers either. It is also taxi drivers, bus drivers, delivery vehicles and long distance truck drivers that will become effected.
Robotics have already had a huge impact on the manufacturing segment of the US economy. While a lot of manufacturing jobs have been moved to places like China and Mexico where labor is much cheaper, the truth is that more manufacturing jobs have been lost to automation. Robots can do repetitive tasks without complaint and in the end are much cheaper than paying for human labor. AI will make robots even more capable of doing jobs that are currently still being handled by humans. There is also a large segment of jobs in customer service and sales that will eventually be displaced by artificial intelligence. Right now for most calls to customer service you will be answered by a machine that will gather information about you and in some cases be able to retrieve the information you are looking for. For most cases you will finally be referred to a human but as AI becomes more developed and machine learning grows, the need for human intervention becomes less and less.
ATMs have already eliminated many teller jobs in the banking industry and word processing software has made the typing pool a thing of the past. There are even a couple of companies that are working on android hookers. Androids will more than likely displace domestic servants over the years, doing functions like house cleaning and gardening. Humans will be free to enjoy them selves more and do creating jobs leaving the humdrum repetitive chores to the robots.
The big problem here is that capitalism, which has stood us in good stead over the years, requires consumers which in turn requires people to have jobs. In capitalism the person contributes his personal capital and gets a reward. For some the capital invested is in the form of money but for most of us it is in the form of human capital. In other words we work for a company and get paid. We then use this pay to buy stuff which in turn keeps the companies in business. The problem is that once we disrupt this system by replacing a large number of workers with AI driven devices the whole system breaks down.
We are going to have to build a whole new economic model to replace capitalism and so far we haven't found one that really works. I'm not sure what this replacement system is going to look like. Clearly we don't want a system like communism where everything is held by the state and everyone gets to live in a place and a way that is just like everyone else. I suspect that we will finish up with some variation of the capitalism model where people own a piece of the pie and can use the revenue to live their life the way they wish. Of course we could leave global warming unchecked and all perish in the next mass extinction in which case the issue becomes moot..
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