I have never seen a new technology have such an immediate social and cultural impact as artificial intelligence has. It’s as if a stranger rang my doorbell and sat in my favorite chair before I could say, “Can I help you?”
The intriguing part is that it’s not so much that A.I. has done anything yet. No jobs have been lost, careers destroyed, or nations overtaken by the robot overlords. It’s just that the thought of A.I. scares the hell out of people.
Cashiers who have watched the proliferation of self-checkout lanes over the last decade or two have no illusions about their occupations. They know it is just a matter of time before there will be no need for humans to take my money. Robots will do just fine.
On the other hand, reporters, writers, and researchers have never worried about A.I. They have been the ones writing about other people’s misfortunes.
Now with ChatGPT, they can see that their once-secure professions will be at risk as A.I. begins to do more profound research, faster analysis, and quality wordsmithing. ChatGPT can write an article with greater accuracy and depth for less money than they can.
So, what is the future of A.I., and how will it impact all of us? According to Bloomberg writer Bryce Baschuk in his article, “Tech, A.I. Driving Job Changes for Nearly a Quarter of All Workers,” stipulates:
Over the next five years, nearly a quarter of all jobs will change as a result of AI, digitization and other economic developments like the green energy transition and supply chain re-shoring, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum in Geneva on Monday.
He goes on to say:
Some 75% of surveyed companies said they expect to adopt AI technologies over the next five years, which they predict will eliminate up to 26 million jobs in record-keeping and administrative positions — think cashiers, ticket clerks, data entry and accounting.
It sounds pretty grim, but Mr. Baschuk predicts more upside than downside. He sees 83 million jobs lost but 69 million jobs created. Those new jobs will pay better than the ones lost. He predicts a lot of hiring in big data analytics, management technologies, and cybersecurity.
As I read all this and pondered the amount of worry being expressed, I thought back to my teenage years when I read Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel, “Player Piano.” It was about a future in which all jobs were lost to automation.
So, worrying about A.I. is just the latest permutation of anxiety that technology will destroy humanity through forced idleness. Workers in early 19th century Britain threw their wooden shoes into steam-powered looms because they worried that the looms would display them as workers. The shoes, called sabot, became the root word for sabotage, a work for describing someone who tries to break something so it no longer works.
Here is my prediction: A.I. will not replace humans but will dramatically increase our thinking ability. Technology will mean that we won’t have to carry all of those pocket change thoughts in our heads (where did I leave my keys, what is my great aunt’s phone number, what time is my hair appointment, and more). We won’t have to master equations, and we won’t need to engage in the drudgery of research. Technology will do all of that for us.
The result will be acres and acres of freed-up brain space. I.Q.’s will soar as humans become smarter and more creative.
Future generations won’t be supermen and superwomen, but they will be something close to that. They will be a very different human being than you and me, maybe a new species. That is the ultimate impact that A.I. will have. Pretty cool – pretty scary.