Are You Ready for a Worse Dystopia than 1984 ?
Paul Craig Roberts
I have been lonely in my concern with the dire economic implications of robotics, but now Clarity Press has provided me with some company by publishing The Artificial Intelligence Contagion by David Barnhizer and Daniel Barnhizer. It is telling as to the irrelevance of the economics profession that the coauthors are lawyers.
The concerns about robots and artificial intelligence have come from scientists who express worries about killer robots with super intelligence taking over from dumber humans with less capabilities. Possibly, but it is more likely that these kind of concerns stem from an incorrect model or understanding of mind, consciousness, and creativity. I do wish that Michael Polanyi were still with us to give us his take on our proclivity to attribute intelligence to machines.
The coauthors briefly mention these threats as well as the very real and already present threats from governments armed with the intrusive surveillence and control that the digital revolution and artificial intelligence make possible. Warnings from Stephen Hawking, Nick Bostrom, and Elon Musk of an immortal godlike superintelligence, amoral at best and immoral at worse, that will determine our fate are speculative, but the adverse economic impact of robotics are already upon us. Thus, the main focus of the coauthors is on the massive economic dislocation that will result from making people superfluous.
Recently, I read about a smart machine that displaces warehouse workers and also the workers at the plants that make the mechanical forklift machines that warehouse workers use to move and stack the crates and boxes. As the smart machines themselves are made by robots, the forklift production workers are also displaced.
According to the latest job report, there are 1,192,000 people employed in warehouses. Unlike the forklift, the new smart machine does not contribute to increasing the productivity of labor. Instead the smart machine displaces labor by eliminating the need for people to do the work. Every dollar that would have been paid in wages goes instead into the profits of the warehouse owners. This is the great difference between earlier innovations that increased human productivity and living standards and the AI robotic innovation that eliminates the need for humans and makes them redundant.