• Sarah

Sarah Conner Wasn't Crazy: AI and Automation will take over.

Seems like just yesterday, a cyborg was sent back in time from the year 2029 to 1984 to kill an unsuspecting waitress before she could give birth.

Of course, I'm referencing the movie 'Terminator'.

*Cue Guns n' Roses *

You have to give credit to James Cameron for Terminator, he absolutely nailed it. He must be a time traveler or something, because here we are, just a decade away from the year 2029, and clearly we are *well* on our way of manifesting the plot of this ongoing series into our reality. The rise of the machines, skynet, cyborgs, and John Connor were just fantasy-land ideas, and crazy doomsday talk.

Until now... Welcome to the uncontrollable world of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

I have so many questions, and opinions, about it. I also have a lot of problems with it. I personally believe that any intelligent, forward-thinking, creative, empathetic person would (and should) have a problem with it too.

AI is rooted largely in philosophy and mathematics. Some might consider the calculator to be one of the first real technical applications of AI. As a field of study, AI was born in the 1950's at the prestigious Dartmouth College. It's founders, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, John McCarthy, Marvin Minsky, and Arthur Samuel, knew the impact AI could have on society, predicting that machines would one day be able to do any job a human could do.

Some people think AI is a great, and necessary progression of technology in time, and others think the opposite. I am one of those whom think the opposite. I think it has the potential to be very dangerous.

I'm not a doomsday type or necessarily fatalistic about it. I do not fear artificial intelligence, because I do see applications where it can be helpful but, there-in lies my first issue with it.

The way I see it, AI technology has the potential to make important breakthroughs and have major impacts on the problems society faces. The big ones such as: pollution, hunger, disease, poverty, politics, etc. But instead, where are we seeing it? In corporations, as a means to increase profit (and productivity) by eliminating the humans they otherwise would have to pay.

I get it. I fully understand why companies want to implement AI and machine learning technologies. I do. But at what cost? What are the implications to society? Will it help us, or eventually hurt us? Can we control it?

Not to mention the application of AI and machine learning for replacing personal relationships, (i.e. robot girlfriends), which I also have a problem with that too. When it comes to jobs, nearly all of the recent literature, puts the AI job loss figure in the 40th percentile range.

Yes, in the next decade, 40% of ALL jobs will be eliminated, or largely affected, by AI. And the go-to argument is -- Oh, there will be "new" jobs requiring new skills so there's no need to worry. It will just even itself out. -- Uhm, no, there will not be new jobs, and there is definitely a need to worry because, it most definitely will not even itself out.

We will see a country (world) divided. An even bigger war between the classes, than we already have. A war where people literally have to fight for the basic necessities in life; food, water, shelter. When we have implemented AI (on a large-scale) in the workforce, people will be in desperate need of jobs so they can buy food, water, and healthcare. There will be a shortage of jobs because half of them have become obsolete.

AI is on its own track now; we opended pandora's box and there's no putting it back in. It has the potential to initiate (on its own) the greatest division of society humans have ever seen leading to a "thinning out" of the population due to lack of resources.

Artificial Intelligence is NOT, and should never be, a catalyst for natural selection. But AI doesn't care about what I, or any human, thinks. It knows best.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the types of jobs currently being affected (because yes, already AI is replacing jobs), are the low-level, middle-class, non-technical jobs. Fast food and restaurant workers, call center representatives, retail employees, manufacturing workers, administrative roles, and more. Where do those people go when replaced by AI? They likely live paycheck-to-paycheck, and barely survive as it is, never mind the fact that many cannot afford college to attain the "new skills" that will be needed for jobs of the future. Many of those people don't own a house, a car, or a savings account. They rent, live with family, some take public transportation, and a lot of them live paycheck-to-paycheck. Eliminate their job, and what do you have? Not someone who can just go out and get trained in a new skill. Not someone who can compete with other job-seekers out there. Not someone who will be fine in the end. These people will require assistance, and who is going to provide it? The government? (That was rhetorical. The government is already way over-tapped for public resources.) No....where these people go is into poverty, and many whom are already there will go deeper into it. Followed by homelessness, and then starvation.

Sounds drastic right? Sounds surreal? It's not. It is ALREADY happening.

Think about it. For just a moment. Have you had to look for a job recently in the last few years? It has become increasingly difficult and competitive out there. Highly-skilled and educated people can go months - to a year or more - without a job offer. Now imagine a company lays off 100 people in Washington, DC due to AI implementation. Great, they save having to pay the salaries of 100 people. That's awesome for profits and shareholders! But now, you have 500 other companies in Washington, DC that very same year, do the same exact thing. And so now there are 5,000 people in Washington, DC all looking for a job in similar roles. Their mortgage still needs to be paid, the car has to be paid, utilities, food, and healthcare for their families. How are they supposed to do all that?

It's not good enough to say that they should have had a 6-month nest egg but c'mon, those days are over. (We can thank student debt.) Now take that DC scenario where 5,000 people lost their jobs to AI and apply it in every major city, and we have a major societal problem. So, is AI good for business? Maybe yes. But not the economy as a whole. When the economy loses 40% of jobs over the next decade, it also loses a large portion of consumers. If they don't have a job, and have trouble finding a new gig that pays the bills, then they won't be spending any money on anything except bare necessities. How does a business expect to sustain profits, and stay in business, if a major portion of the population is unable to buy goods and services because they all lost their jobs to AI? People will spend only on the things they need.

If you haven't already noticed, the cost of food at the grocery store has risen dramatically just over the last year or two. When the hell did a bag of six english muffins become $5!? Or a gallon of milk $7?!

The healthcare provider industry (and the health insurance industry) will definitely be affected. AI won't just affect people's jobs. There is a domino effect when we do away with massive amounts of jobs, especially when done in a short amount of time. That's part of it, AI doesn't evolve like humans do. It doesn't understand the concept of change over a long period of time. When jobs are eliminated, a whole lot of health insurance plans go away too, causing less need for employees in those companies. It's just not good.

We already have a horribly strained system of healthcare, and now, we could see emergency healthcare facilities take an even larger amount of uninsured people than they already do, which in turn, jeopardizes the level of care to others and the funding needed to stay in operation.

When you eliminate jobs, how are the insurance comanies going to recover the lost premiums? By raising the premiums of those who still have jobs and/or policies; (not to mention they will likely lobby for some type of government bail out.) But I digress...

We have already begun to see it happen. Do a simple web search for 'AI eliminates jobs' and you will see it for yourself. This isn't fiction. It's not a sci-fi movie. This is really happening. We need to think less about -- how can we enable companies to become more lean and net bigger profits -- and more about -- how can we use this for the good of humanity. -- We don't need robot girlfriends to have sex with. We don't need Siri or Alexa to remind us of stuff we can just write down or remember. We don't need AI to do everything that a human can do.

We need AI to do the stuff we can't do.

We need more humanity-focused thinking in the field of AI. We need AI to help us with the big problems, not to funnel more money into corporations and shareholder pockets. We need it to help us solve complex problems....not build algorithms so social media companies can make more money off selling our lives to advertisers. We need it to enhance our well-being....not endanger it. We need it to facilitate international collaboration....not initiate international conflict. What happens when it doesn't learn what we want (prefer) it to learn and instead goes rouge?

WAR. (In whatever form that may be.)

Should we be working to regulate AI development? Is it too late to pump the brakes and rethink this whole AI/Machine learning thing? I think AI can solve many problems and potentially be great for the future, but who is overseeing the process? Who is keeping tabs on the rapid evolution of AI? It will outpace us if we don't set the parameters now. Two other well-known (suspected) time travellers, who predicted AI before AI was a thing, are Lawrence Lasker and Walter F. Parkes, the writers of the classic movie WarGames. They were on to something way back then...... "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?" - Joshua, WarGames

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