Artificial Intelligence (AI) is here to stay. Once strictly the territory of our imaginations, rapid improvements in the technology mean automation is entering all aspects of our lives. Enthusiasm ranges from a belief that this is the beginning of a magical era for humanity as machines take over repetitive tasks, to fear that AI will literally automate people out of jobs, leading to civil unrest and, eventually, the destruction of the human race by the robots.
Most experts admit that future changes are impossible to predict. This is nascent days for effective AI – no one is entirely sure about anything. If history is any indicator, disruptive changes will happen in the short term, only to even out as society adjusts. But some AI advocates believe this time will be different. For the first time in history, mental skills, not mechanical skills, are being mechanized.
Calum Chace, the author of the book Artificial Intelligence and the Two Singularities, disputes the notion that humans will have ample time for leisure if machines take care of menial tasks for them. He argues that this vision would necessitate a utopian “abundance economy”, where basic human needs like shelter and food are so abundant they are free. Without that ideal scenario, humans would have to compete with each other for jobs that have not been automated, potentially exacerbating existing problems with resource-related inequalities.
Avoiding these issues means facilitating a gradual transition to an AI-driven economy. Governments and regulatory bodies would need to oversee which roles were being automated and assign resources to assist those who are being replaced entirely, rather than simply assisted by artificial intelligence. And these parties plus industry (especially Silicon Valley) would need to prioritize people over profits – no given, as tech’s giants are still primarily profit-driven entities despite that sector’s love of benevolent origin stories.
In the short term, managing fear and expectations is important to smooth the transition to an AI-driven world. Chace cites self-driving cars as an example: “[People] will see these robots driving around taking people’s jobs and think ‘It won’t be long until they come for mine’ – and then there will be a panic. And panics lead to very nasty populist politicians, of the left or the right, being elected.”
A utopian, AI-centric society may be a bit of a pipe dream, but Chace still believes it is possible to shape a reality where AI exists without the extreme stratification of haves and have-nots. “If we do grasp the challenge we can have an amazing world for ourselves, our kids and our grandkids…a world where machines do the boring stuff and humans do the worthwhile, interesting stuff,” says Chace. Creating that world is a possibility – if society makes politicians and business leaders aware of the challenges and holds them accountable for making positive changes.
The Investment and Financial Industry Faces the Same A.I.-Driven Evolution
Hedge funds and large institutional investors have been using Artificial Intelligence to analyze large data sets for investment opportunities, and they have also unleashed A.I. on charts to discover patterns and trends. Not only can the A.I. scan thousands of individual securities and cryptocurrencies for patterns and trends, and it generates trade ideas based on what it finds. Hedge funds have had a leg-up on the retail investor for some time now.
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