Artificial intelligence will have a major impact on employment.
“Strong AI,” which has as its goal automating all the tasks, cognitive as well as physical, that humans can perform. Strong AI differs from “Weak AI,” which has as its goal simply providing help to humans.
Opinions about the societal impact of this rapidly accelerating technological revolution span the spectrum from anticipated utopias to the fear of existential threats to humanity.
Indeed AI and automation are already having profound effects on employment, as former assembly line workers, postal employees, and bank tellers will confirm. Also, soon to be affected are even some mid-level professionals such as attorneys, radiologists, stockbrokers, and newspaper writers. I think that the result of all of this automation will be continuing structural unemployment, especially among unskilled and not-sufficiently educated people.
The question is, how will all these abundant goods and services be distributed? Just to those few who are sufficiently well off and who still earn enough from their non-automated jobs to pay for them? What social problems will that cause? We will need significant changes in our economic system to ensure that distribution is fair and socially responsible (whatever all that turns out to mean). Several suggestions come to mind, such as a negative income tax, more entitlements, shorter workweeks, and stock ownership by all citizens, so that they will own the machines producing the wealth and thus collect the dividends.
AI is a disruptive technology, and like all disruptions, it will be both a boon and a bane. Many of its consequences will ultimately be up to us.
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