Possible Future with Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a very hot topic all over the world and has been popularized by movies such as Ex Machina, The Matrix and Will Smith’s I, Robot to name a few. These movies depict a dystopian future overrun by robots causing problems in society. On the most basic level, AI simply means “the capacity of a computer to perform operations analogous to learning and decision making in humans.” AI is becoming a growing part of our culture and some people are accepting it while others are renouncing its existence for various reasons. It is undeniable that AI, such as Apple’s Siri, has already changed our world and is going to continue to bring about changes.
One way this is going to happen is through automation. This can replace humans in practically any job and can bring us self-driving cars, machines acting as doctors,and so much more. AI is a way for companies to guarantee that they are running as efficiently as possible with no human error or the need for breaks. At first, companies’ goals were to reduce their workforce by 5-10%, but now they are asking, “Why can’t we do it with 1 percent of the people we have?” according to Mohit Joshi, the president of Infosys, a technology and consulting firm that helps businesses automate their operations. Kai Fu Lee, a technologist, and venture capitalist estimates 40-50% of jobs could be automated in the next 10-20 years which is in line with many others including Oxford University, PwC, and McKinsey.
What will happen eventually when robots are capable of completing nearly every job we know today? Although some argue that AI will require more jobs than today, I am going to talk about a nearly 100% job replacement -- the worst case scenario to some. There are going to be some crazy things happening in the economy. In I, Robot, one small but significant detail is when Spooner pays $46.50 for two beers representing that inflation will continue. Although this is just a guess, it is a likely scenario. So how will we be able to afford basic necessities if jobs are replaced by robots?
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a probable outcome that has support from Nobel Prize-winning economists to notable billionaires such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Elon Musk, and Mark Zuckerberg. In Alaska, there is a state-run UBI program funded through earnings from various investments called The Permanent Fund. The earnings are then dispersed to the people in an equal way. If companies are publicly funded in the future, they could offer a similar program. This would not only relieve stress from the inability to work, but would decrease inequality. Nobody would be better off than one another and they would have to live within the same means. This means a lot coming from Buffet, Gates, and Bezos who combined are worth more than half the population of the United States. If corporations aren’t public, economists have varying suggestions on different forms of taxes. Some say a wealth tax would be the best, while others argue for estate taxes, or capital gains taxes.
Another issue people should be concerned about apart from money that isn’t getting quite as much attention is how will we find meaning in life? Without work, we will have an abundance of time on our hands. In John Danaher’s “Will life be worth living in a world without work?”, he claims that almost all of society's problems will be solved except there will be no meaning. There are four main theories about meaning. The objective theory states an activity is meaningful if it is objectively valuable and significant; that means making the world a better place. The subjective theory says action is meaningful if someone derives a sense of fulfillment from it. The aim achievement theory says it is meaningful if it involves achieving a desired goal. The hybrid theory is some mix of the three theories.
Danaher is most likely correct when he states “Science is increasingly a ‘big data’ enterprise, reliant on algorithmic, and other forms of automated assistance, to process large datasets and make useful inferences from those datasets. Humans are becoming increasingly irrelevant to the process of discovery.” This eliminates the objective theory, but leaves plenty of room for subjective and aim achievement meaning.
With all the time in the world, people will have the ability to pick up a hobby of their choosing. Danaher claims “there are at least four nonmonetary goods associated with paid work: (i) excellence in the cultivation of our skills; (ii) contribution to society; (iii) a sense of community and (iv) social status.” All of these can be applied to a hobby people could undertake when there are no jobs. People will always want to master their hobby and be working towards that goal which meets the subjective theory. Something as simple as knitting can be a huge contribution to society whether you give completed projects out to people or do the activity together. This ties into the third part of having a sense of community. You will meet other people if you so choose, no matter what your hobby is. As long as people are enjoying what they are doing, then they have subjective meaning. The final one, social status, will be a little harder to find but hopefully will be nonexistent if everyone is equal under UBI.
When it comes to aim achievement theory, the goal of most would be to find meaning since there wouldn’t be any according to Danaher. This is most likely that hobby I mentioned before. But what would someone do if they’ve mastered their hobby? They could move on to another goal they have. Some may say this is repetitive like with Sisyphus, but if you are learning and finding pleasure while continuing to improve yourself , then it should be considered meaningful.
With AI becoming more of a reality every day, we will soon find out the true effects it will have on our society. Isaac Asimov, a professor and sci-fi author, came up with laws that machines should follow to protect humanity. They are “1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law”. If these are followed and AI is properly introduced into society, then there should be nothing to worry about, and AI should be seen as a wonderful opportunity to bring about new experiences that have only been dreamt about.