Losing Jobs in the Hands of Artificial Intelligence
The release of gpt-3 and its public API generated a lot of discussion (again) about losing jobs in the hands of artificial intelligence 1 . Sadly, most discussions are given without a lot of thought and without a lot of understanding of what is going on. I even read a book by a specialized journalist ( Machines Can't Dream ) in which the word statistics is mentioned not even once.
Automatization is a process that has been taking place for the last several centuries. We have windmills to grind grains instead of doing it manually. Factories have tools that increasingly require less human intervention. Cleaning the streets in places where salaries are too high is done with machines instead of by an army of employees.
I guess in every step of the infinite progress ladder, people was afraid of losing jobs. However, the wealthier part of society was never at risk. A lawyer could not be replaced, an architect neither. But is it so? AutoCAD made architects more efficient. Doesn't this mean, by definition, that we can leave with fewer architects?
People is paying a lot of attention to self-driving cars , forgetting that public transport has been around for quite a while and achieves a similar goal: going from one place to the other without driving. There is a surge on something called no-code tools that allow anyone to make websites without programming.
All this is happening without any artificial intelligence intervention, just by creating better and more versatile tools. Therefore, I do believe that artificial intelligence is one more step in this process of automatizing .
Is the Fear of AI Justified?
I don't think fear is the right word regarding technologies that can transform the world. I do think, however, that we must re-think how we live. People through the world is getting more and more productive. We can make in minutes what before took hours. Access to goods is being democratized. However, we still work 40 hours a week.
I think the fear of AI is playing an important role for questioning what kind of world we want to live in. We can't keep with increasing production forever, the world is finite and the environment is suffering. What will happen once we can produce things in a fully automated way, without having to exploit workers in Southeast Asia to make cheap clothes?
Some new jobs will be created, but what can really AI do is increase the productivity of a lot of sectors that now are bound to the limits of human time availability. Imagine if there would be an AI doctor or radiologist. Consults could be much faster and much more accessible without increasing the current number of physicians.
We are bound to one world
Even though most people who look at artificial intelligence do it from the perspective of job loss, few look at the problem from the perspective that world resources are limited . Even if architects become more efficient, we won't be able to build skyscrapers simply because we are running out of sand . We can automate all the cars in the world, but they won't run without a way of powering them.
For the foreseeable future, and regardless of what Elon Musk makes you believe, we are bound to this one planet. We are hitting rock bottom with some essential goods, such as helium. We are running out of polinizing bees. Fresh water is becoming a scarce resource in developed countries even before the entire humanity has access to drinkable water[^2]. There is no degree of automatization that can counter act the effects of living in a non sustainable way.
How can the future be?
The biggest challenge is that the capitalistic world is not prepared for a qualitative jump. People has started discussing about universal basic income to compensate for the lack of access to work. Imagine a world where very few people had to work, what would the rest do? If we all worked only 2 hours a week, what would we do with the extra time?
Somehow we were made to believe we have to work. If you pay attention, you will find rich people taking sabbaticals of 1 or 2 years. Millenials traveling the world. Of course, if you are the child of a factory worker in Myanmar chances are you will never be able to even dream about such a lifestyle. But, would it be too extreme to think that future that awaits us is a communist future?