In recent years, talk of artificial intelligence (A.I.), its development, and how it will shape our future has intensified. Already, simple forms of A.I.—or, Artificial Narrow Intelligence (A.N.I.)—has already become a part of the average persons life via “smart” devices such as Siri, driverless car technology, and other similar devices. As impressive as these technologies are, however, Artificial General Intelligence—or, A.G.I.—where machines can reach human or near-human intelligence, has yet to be realize, although some scientists seriously think A.G.I. will be reached at some point in the middle of this century.
This conversation matters because different forms of A.I. are already transforming human lives in the economy. Since the early nineteenth century, during the on-set of the Industrial Revolution, machine began to replace humans by performing tasks in textile mills and others industries. Back then, of course, a human still needed to operate these machines, but the point is that one person operating a machine can do the same amount of work as perhaps a few dozen. Labor strikes broke out, and the term “Luddite” has been used since to describe an individual who remains averse to technology.
By the early twentieth century, movies like the film “Metropolis” (1927) began to show what a “machine-man” could be, and it seems like even back then, humans have become aware that science and technology may be able to one day produce a sentient machine.
And that future, it seems, is now.
Despite political controversies surrounding job losses to immigration and globalization, the reality is that most job losses in the United States have been mostly due to machine automation. And it appears that this trend is only going to continue in the coming years and decades. This prediction has allowed some researchers and social scientists to speculate about how machine learning and machine intelligence, as they are integrated more and more into the economy, will lead to mass unemployment.
To get ahead of this problem, some have been discussing the application of “Universal Basic Income,” or, what would essentially amount to the government giving every citizen a standard basic amount of income every month. Some countries have already begun experimenting with this, but with unemployment at historic lows in the United States, this idea will have to remain waiting in the wings until—or if—A.I. does create mass unemployment in the future.
Until then, what remains likely is that machine learning and other forms of A.I. are only likely to advance further, and, in the meantime, those who think deeply about this issue will only be left to wonder, “What’s next?” As noted, it could be that A.I. systems will plateau without ever reaching human-level intelligence, or maybe not. But this latter situation remains unlikely, given that “Moore’s Law,” or the continued doubling of computing processing power every 18 months, has been in works for decades.
Regardless, it appears that A.I. is already among us.