I have always been a strong advocate for technology and over the recent years also AI and began to wonder about all the great things it will be able to do for us.
Over the past few years I began to think about another aspect of it which is the actual social aspect of it. Of course we tend to envision the future to slowly progress and take the past a reference point. Therefore we remember back, how the Internet slowly grew from the 80’s and 90’s till today and realize that it has gotten faster but still “talks” TCP/IP and maybe more cat images are being spread. Thus we expect the same happening with AI as well. Today we have image recognition and voice to some extend and in perhaps 30 years computers will be able to serve coffee somewhat reliable, but exactly this is a grave misunderstanding of how progress in IT works. We have entered into the phase of accelerating returns and many experts agree that we will see machines that will pass as a human in conversational and other tasks that the average trained person can perform, in about 12 years from today.
We will see machines that will pass as humans within 12 years from today
Simply imagine a template of a human in a box. Let’s call it the “base human 1.0b”. Base human can have fluent conversations in ALL languages it’s programmed in, it knows ALL knowledge that is available on the Internet today, it can imitate social skills and can display a friendly face to it. Imagine you will buy “base human 1.0” from a cloud startup for $19.99 per month.
Imagine you can “rent” a human for $19.99 per month
The company will of course offer an App Store where you can buy “skill packs” for “base human 1.0”. These range anywhere from insurance agent, call center agent where you can upload your knowledge base and connect to service API’s as well as programmer as a skill pack to perhaps create other skills based on an “interview skill pack”. It sounds like a wild dream of a science fiction fan but this future will be here way faster that we can fathom. Soon there will be “base human skill” market places where you buy those “base humans” with a IQ and EQ slider attached to it – 15 years?
I feel there is a huge potential in taking more “mundane” workload of people all over the world but also a catastrophic potential in massive job loss with only extremely highly qualified jobs left to get. Most talk already about a 50-60% job loss within the next decade or two. To clarify here – a decade sounds long, it is however only 10 years. Everyone knows that, but I thought I point it out so we can see it as a number in front of us.
Do you remember what you have done 10 years ago? Is it really that long ago? Or does it feel like yesterday. Maybe in 10 years we will be in a society with 60% unemployment in a world that started to see the trouble coming when it already was at 50%. I don’t think or say that we should or can stop the progress but I feel it is time now to begin public discussions & education as of how to handle such a future. Every time I begin speaking to people about this potential future they look at me as if I watched too many science fiction movies but I am simply stating well known facts among geeks, does everyone really think about it? Most of the time people are telling me either “we will not be alive anymore until that really happens”, “People said that about trains as well” or “I think there will an equal amount of new jobs available” but all these answer have one thing in common – They compare apples with oranges. We don’t talk about ages away, trains or some jobs that will vanish, we are talking about technology that replaces the very humans that ponder this question at the moment. It will replace us. So what will we as a society do when most jobs are done for us. What will we do if our income drops to zero in 10-20 years, what will we do now that we know that our children will be most likely unemployed? Another question would be – What do people with all that free time? People are not used to free time, there will be a whole slew of other issues that nobody is willing to speak about. What does a society do where the majority has virtually nothing to do? I think we all as business people have the responsibility to begin an open dialog today so people can start to know, prepare and suggest, because that’s what we humans are good at, working together in solving large problems. Right now entire industries work together to replace us, I admit being one of these people who works on AI projects. Just now that I realize where the journey will lead us to, we need to begin to paint a complete unbiased picture and openly discuss options and possible outcomes and I would be way more optimistic about the future. I do see amazing potential in these technologies and it can be a great blessing for us, never-less I begin to see huge pitfalls and it takes all of us to create a birds eye view so this great future won’t turn into a nightmare for most.