The Power and Perils of the “Artificial Hand”: Considering AI Through the Ideas of Adam Smith

Speech by Gita Gopinath: “…Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to talk about economics without invoking Adam Smith. We take for granted many of his concepts, such as the division of labor and the invisible hand. Yet, at the time when he was writing, these ideas went against the grain. He wasn’t afraid to push boundaries and question established thinking.

Smith grappled with how to advance well-being and prosperity at a time of great change. The Industrial Revolution was ushering in new technologies that would revolutionize the nature of work, create winners and losers, and potentially transform society. But their impact wasn’t yet clear. The Wealth of Nations, for example, was published the same year James Watt unveiled his steam engine.

Today, we find ourselves at a similar inflection point, where a new technology, generative artificial intelligence, could change our lives in spectacular—and possibly existential—ways. It could even redefine what it means to be human.

Given the parallels between Adam Smith’s time and ours, I’d like to propose a thought experiment: If he were alive today, how would Adam Smith have responded to the emergence of this new “artificial hand”?…(More)”.