Reboot for the AI revolution

Yuval Noah Harari in Nature: “The ongoing artificial-intelligence revolution will change almost every line of work, creating enormous social and economic opportunities — and challenges. Some believe that intelligent computers will push humans out of the job market and create a new ‘useless class’; others maintain that automation will generate a wide range of new human jobs and greater prosperity for all. Almost everybody agrees that we should take action to prevent the worst-case scenarios….

Governments might decide to deliberately slow down the pace of automation, to lessen the resulting shocks and allow time for readjustments. But it will probably be both impossible and undesirable to prevent automation and job loss completely. That would mean giving up the immense positive potential of AI and robotics. If self-driving vehicles drive more safely and cheaply than humans, it would be counterproductive to ban them just to protect the jobs of taxi and lorry drivers.

A more sensible strategy is to create new jobs. In particular, as routine jobs are automated, opportunities for new non-routine jobs will mushroom. For example, general physicians who focus on diagnosing known diseases and administering familiar treatments will probably be replaced by AI doctors. Precisely because of that, there will be more money to pay human experts to do groundbreaking medical research, develop new medications and pioneer innovative surgical techniques.

This calls for economic entrepreneurship and legal dexterity. Above all, it necessitates a revolution in education…Creating new jobs might prove easier than retraining people to fill them. A huge useless class might appear, owing to both an absolute lack of jobs and a lack of relevant education and mental flexibility….

With insights gleaned from early warning signs and test cases, scholars should strive to develop new socio-economic models. The old ones no longer hold. For example, twentieth-century socialism assumed that the working class was crucial to the economy, and socialist thinkers tried to teach the proletariat how to translate its immense economic power into political clout. In the twenty-first century, if the masses lose their economic value they might have to struggle against irrelevance rather than exploitation….The challenges posed in the twenty-first century by the merger of infotech and biotech are arguably bigger than those thrown up by steam engines, railways, electricity and fossil fuels. Given the immense destructive power of our modern civilization, we cannot afford more failed models, world wars and bloody revolutions. We have to do better this time….(More)”