AI has a lot in store for us in the next couple of decades…

Not all of it will be good (that’s our fault, not AI’s)- but a lot of it will, and even more of it depends on us and how we use it, both as individuals, and as as corporations, countries, and allies or enemies. The transition, however, may in fact be brutal…which is why we need to AI responsibly.

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It keeps popping up in conversations and my newsfeeds…

Even the non-technical people I know have heard something or other about AI- and how can they not? Boston Dynamics comes out with amazing videos detailing the state of their robotics, while Google and Facebook spout off about their AI achievements in Go and being able to tell me where Frodo took the One Ring in Lord of the Rings, respectively. Tesla makes progress on all-electric cars, while Google works on making them drive themselves (occasionally into buses, heh). 3D printers, easily corrupted chatbots, hoverboards, etc… It’s the future!

And people are starting to get a bit spooked…

Before I dive in the really spooky bits, a disclaimer: AlphaGo, Watson, and DeepMind are nowhere near SkyNet. Neither are Google self-driving cars, or even the military’s own drones (easily hackable, as Iran proved when they spoofed GPS on one of our RQ-170’s and made it land in their territory, claiming it for a prize so that they, too, could build R/C airplanes). I don’t even think Go players should be saddened by this news. We still play chess, and Gary Kasperov was beaten by Deep Blue in 1997. Microsoft’s Tay chatbot couldn’t withstand internet trolls for even 24 hours before they pulled the plug (I’m might have to write about this in its own blog)!

But more importantly, what all of these AI have in common is that they were purpose-built. None of these are capable of “General Intelligence“, which is what is required to even begin approaching our own, much less advancing past it. A Google self-driving car simply cannot decide to murder someone- that kind of knowledge lay outside its comprehension the same way we cannot see time. However, that same car will need to swerve in an accident some day, and will need to decide which shitty decision to make from a list of more or less shitty decisions that all end in someone being hurt or killed due entirely to circumstances, and on that day, people will become extremely suspect of self-driving cars’ AI. This is ironic, because humans with higher forms of intelligence are killed on roads daily and we think nothing of it beyond slapping stickers on our bumpers to make ourselves feel better.

So yeah, I’m not worried about AI taking over anytime soon.

AI will, however, cause us some amount of pain…just not how you think…

Now that we’ve established that AI isn’t going to murder you in the face, let’s get on to what it will do to you. There’s a good chance that AI will take your job if you’re not retired by the 2030’s. Self-driving cars will likely replace truck and taxi drivers on the roads, both for safety and efficiency (AI doesn’t need to sleep, and you don’t have to argue with it when it takes a wrong turn- because it usually won’t). Some pilots will be out of work too- though here, I think mostly in the cargo sector, as most people would be comfortable with pilots in commercial planes (even though the truth is that auto-pilot flies a lot more than you think, even now).

Routine office work will get automated, as well as call center work, once AI can carry on conversations better (and even that won’t be as high a bar once automated assistant software starts making calls for you, and then AI can talk in more efficient and stable dialects). Warehouse jobs are already going away and manufacturing, as we all know (especially every election cycle), has been utterly gutted. Those jobs won’t be back. Even workers in China are starting to lose out to robots, like at Foxconn.

Construction work will continue to be partly automated, though I think some of the more manual work will stay for a while until bipedal or more specialized robots become very affordable and also very durable. The military will keep most of its humans, though drones and robots will form the vanguard, and shattered technology will litter the center of every battlefield. In space, our pioneers are already robots- and that’s a good thing! Clothing is approaching the point where clothes can be woven and sewn by one machine, allowing for almost complete automation of fashion.

Some more interesting professions that lose out would be prostitutes (sex bots– don’t shake your head, you know it’s going to happen…has, actually) and even sports, where more risk can be had with players piloting robots remotely, and thus smaller teams (okay, that one’s stretching it, I’ll admit).

And before all of the above finishes happening, we will see backlash…

We see it even now. Some of the tech industry’s luminaries are weighing in on AI, and not positively. Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking worry about Artificial General Intelligence displacing us. The military has worried about it (as it should, being an organization tasked with spotting threats within trends), even as it works toward advanced AI applications. The general public worries over mundane advances such as AlphaGo, oblivious to the threats to the job sector, still thinking that trade policies can fix what is essentially a completely different issue.

My own thoughts here are that some countries will enact some laws barring AI to protect workers. Some will allow for the automation and deal with whatever consequences may come, adapting more or less successfully. Many countries are going to get steam-rolled, sadly, and that’s going to lead to a lot of other bad things. Suffering economies with idle populations don’t usually sit still for long before the blood starts to run. Old tensions buried by economic good times will rise to the surface, and civil wars will break out, borders will get crossed, and more than a couple of governments are ripe for a fall. What replaces them might be very reactionary, and more horrible than what may have proceeded them. Some areas may simply disintegrate into lawlessness (Mel Gibson may make an appearance here and there to help small communities being threatened by hockey-mask-wearing sociopaths in muscle cars).

But it’s not all doom-and-gloom!

Mostly, however, I think the economies of the world will adapt to more regional and local economies, opting into the mass-produced cheap products at will, while relying on more personalized products for the majority of life’s needs. Even now, outdoor companies are leaning towards more sustainable, more costly, but very durable clothing. Designed to last decades rather than a year, customers pay more to get more. Using the same technology that put many out of work, local economies can fight back on an even footing by churning out higher-quality products created locally, and more personalized.

Even cities, which currently are completely dependent on surrounding farming and industrial output for survival, can become more resilient to economic or other collapse. Advances in farming and manufacturing allow the placement of food and other product sources within cities themselves, allowing them to feed their populations from within for most foods. Energy sources are moving to renewable, and grids will eventually become more decentralized, making widespread outages a thing of the past, and energy something that your own building would generate.

Don’t even get me started on what medicine will be like. AI will revolutionize it, to the benefit of everyone.

Getting from here to there safely…

There’s a lot of debate about the pros and cons of AI and robotics, and there’s way too many moving parts to this debate to cover here in one blog post. I will say this though: As in all things, careful thought and consideration needs to be taken. Uncontrolled deployment of robotics and AI will bring about some nasty consequences. We have to be smart shoppers about this, and not only allow AI and robotics to advance, but also respond accordingly.

Sitting on our hands is no option, and neither is being reactionary and throwing the baby out with the bath water…

We need to advance AI, and we need to do it responsibly.