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Artificial Intelligence And Our Economic And Technology Singularity

First I’d like to mention two authors who wrote more than two bestsellers.

Calum Chace is an author of one of the best known book “The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism”. He is one of the most impressive authors who write about artificial intelligence (AI) and its technology. Chace defends his position that it is possible the mankind won`t work for money in next few decades or the situation will be even worse; people will lose practically all jobs. Our economy will totally change itself as it is already happening today. His observations are consistent with enterpreneurs today. We assume that about 8 million jobs will collapsed (5 millions of them will be replaced by robots) (1) in the next 15 years, and only 2 million new jobs will appear but we don’t know yet what these new jobs will be. We will figure this out when they occur.

Martin Ford is an author of many articles published in New York Times and an expert in the field of AI and robotics and its influence on human jobs, economy, and society. His bestseller “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” touches disruptive new economy and innovations.

For better understanding of this topic I also recommend the following three books:

  • The Internet of Things (The MIT Press Essential Knowledge series), Samuel Greengard
  • The Internet of Things: How Smart TVs, Smart Cars, Smart Homes, and Smart Cities are Changing the World, Michael Miller
  • The Silent Intelligence -The Internet of Things, Daniel Kellmereit, Daniel Obodovski

I’ll try to explain that some facts indicating that we are approaching the biggest change in the human evolution in next few decades. I don’t want to cause panic but I’d like to start a debate with different comments. I believe that these comments would help us think about how to influence our future and how to help the youngest to survive. Maybe we are going to make the first try in the history to change the future in the present. We do this all the time spontaneously, but I believe that we could do this consciously. Can we?

First of all, we have to understand human innovations. Mankind invented tools and weapons from stone, fire and society and it has been taken for about 5 million years. Each day those times didn’t happen nothing important. Then men invented Copper Age about 6000 years ago, Bronze Age 4000 years ago and Iron Age 2000 year ago. After that, innovations began to rise exponentially and each day is different from the previous one.

Most of us could not imagine what exponential growth even means. Chace describes an excellent example how it looks like. Let’s imagine that someone throws a drop of water in the middle of a football stadium. He throws drops in a way that each minute the number of drops increases exponentially. In the first minute, he throws in one drop, in second minute he throws 2 drops, in third 4 drops, in fourth 8 drops, in fifth minute 16 drops, etc. How much time does he need to fill up the stadium? 49 minutes. But surprisingly, stadium will be only 7% full after 45 minute. Visitors in the upper seats will peacefully observe what is happening. In the next 4 minutes, they will drown. So, we can expect similar but not so spectacular events in the next 5 to 15 years. But we can still expect some unpleasant changes.

Machines and things will steal our jobs ever faster. Human routine tasks will disappear first and are already disappearing, other professions will follow: from the secretaries, doctors, attorneys, financiers, teachers, etc. In this case, we expect economic singularity. This is the point when we can reach 70% or 80% unemployment. Better don’t think about this. The retirement system will collapse, economy will stop almost entirely, people will be under stress, riots will start, entrepreneurs will close their activities, cities will decay, lack of food and medicines will follow, the gap between rich and poor will go beyond all boundaries, technological elite will arise, the middle class will disappear and is already disappearing.

If politicians would be aware of this, they would invent a universal basic income that would not be a real income but it would be money for survival. We can only hope for the best.

The fact these days is that if we reduce the number of workers than we can always increase the realization of the company. The reason is automation. That is good for companies but bad for employees. Between 1995 and 2002, almost 22 million American workers lost their jobs in the labor intensive industry, but the realization increased in this period for about 30% (Martin Ford). Similar is happening in the developed countries, while corruption is blooming in the developing countries.

Consequently, company owners should ask themselves who will buy their products and services if people won`t have money. I’m deeply convinced that this is the reason why economic singularity is not only the problem of workers; conversely, it is primarily the problem of employers.

One solution is that manufacturers and service providers offer prices near $0 (Chris Anderson, Free). Think about free shipping today. In case you fill up the shipping container, you can reduce the price per product so much that it can be limited to few cents, which is nearly $0.

Our economy is changing all the time. Human economy is based on stock exchange with buying and selling. Let us assume that mayor human tasks are replaced by robots. Robots can work and sell but they don’t need to buy. They can work 24/7, don`t need to sleep, they do not eat, do not need lights, everything they need is some electricity.

Think now about young people. They cannot find jobs, so they are forced to realize their future with a startup economy. Each day, the number of startups grows, and they contribute to changes in the economy. These contributions result in replacing human work with machines. And we can easily say that machines are stealing our jobs.

Chace predicts that it is possible to raise the boundary till 2050 or 2060. In this case AI will occupy all human work, develop itself into a thing unrecognizable to people, and leave the human race. Children who are born today will reach this.

This event has a name: technological singularity.

While I was writing this article I remembered how I start my job 25 years ago. I wrote a Clipper code, and my algorithm first replaced a secretary and than a young woman with three kids. I was young and I did not pay attention to all of this. I asked them why their boss fired them. They correct me that it was not their boss, it was a computer. Only now I realized what really happened.

And what is happening now.

Matjaz Marussig

References

Calum Chace, The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism, Kindle Edition

Martin Ford, “Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, Kindle Edition

Originally published here.