Will the growth of artificial intelligence create or take away jobs? Our society is eager to resolve this question but conventional economic wisdom tells us the answer. Money governs corporate decision making. Without government intervention to abate the fears of sweeping unemployment, the choice between automation and man power – ceteris paribus – is purely financial.
A 1980’s publication from the Artificial Intelligence Center warns against such Luddite obstacles in favor of letting AI progress naturally. The traditional goal of full employment is neither a sustainable nor healthy idea in a future where artificial intelligence makes such labors technologically unnecessary. To condemn humanity to such toil is unfair.
One proposed solution to the unemployment of workers displaced by AI is to establish a national mutual fund invested in automated industries. Earnings from private company profits would be distributed to the public as dividends. Everyone would have invested capital in the automation industry. It is not so radical an idea when one considers other government programs like Social Security or the Alaska Permanent Fund.
AI proponents see the future as a possible new awakening for humans. In her article, Artificial Intelligence as a Humanizing Force, Professor Boden shares a beautiful outlook of a new dawn for humankind.
AI could be the Westerner’s mango tree. Its contribution to our food, shelter, and manufactured goods, and to the running of our administrative bureaucracies can free us not only from drudgery but for humanity. It will lead to an increased number of “service” jobs-in the caring professions, education, craft, sport, and entertainment. Such jobs are human rather than inhuman, giving satisfaction not only to those for whom the service is provided, but also to those who provide it. And because even these jobs will very likely not be full-time, people both in and out of work will have time to devote to each other which today they do not enjoy. Friendship could become a living art again (Boden, 1983).
Three decades later these words still read as a dream. Let us seize the opportunity to transcend the daily toil and widespread poverty and transition to a stable and prosperous society. Let us rebuild what it means to be human.