Depending on who you listen to, artificial intelligence (AI) will either save us or kill us all. I’d be in the “save us” camp, if I had to choose. But why do we have to choose? And why is sitting on the fence seen as indecisive? Perhaps, AI will both save us and kill us all?
My point is that you can choose to harness the good and evade the bad of AI… if you know how, and understand how AI will change us.
It’s up to us, not AI, whether it gives us all free foot massages or harvests humans as a source of energy supply in the future.
Understanding the phenomenon, in other words, will be the key. That’s why Sam Volkering is launching his latest project to help people understand the dynamics of AI and how to profit from it.
Today is your last day to sign up, before the launch tomorrow. See you there.
All change is inherently disruptive. It’s about how we anticipate and adjust to it.
Sure, AI could be a rather radical change. But that might be just what we need.
For example, consider that there are two ways to grow the economy. One is more people and the other is higher productivity – meaning more GDP per person.
What technology does is enable higher productivity. Technology makes each person more productive. And that gives us a higher standard of living.
Thanks to looms, the same person could suddenly produce far more fabric.
Thanks to explosives, the same person could suddenly mine far more ore.
Thanks to chainsaws, the same person could suddenly cut more wood.
Most of us focus on all of the unemployed miners, wood choppers and textile workers that we see on the streets today, asking for food.
Except that there aren’t such people. Unemployment is ridiculously low, despite high technology adoption.
That’s because productive workers eventually find other work to do, leaving us with more or the same amount of fabric, ore and wood, plus whatever else people went on to produce instead.
This is the very nature of raising living standards and prosperity. The dislocation of those workers is the price that we pay for that improvement.
The real question is, unless we want to freeze living standards and workers in place, how quickly people can adjust. And that’s why our focus should be on helping people to adjust, not avoiding such adjustment.
If AI is just another boost to our productivity, then all of this is great news, for the country and our living standards.
But what if AI is something altogether different? I’ll go back to that in a moment.
Another big shift that we can expect is the creation of entirely new industries, which helps those who will be dislocated by AI.
Consider the industrial boom created by the internet. It seems like every other person is a web developer or graphic designer these days. Every business needs a website or an online presence. Not so long ago, encountering a company on the internet was a mistrusting experience. These days, it’s almost the opposite.
What new industries will AI unlock?
The list is vast. You’ll have to ask Sam Volkering, over at the AI Summit.
For example, a friend of mine is running a home education provider in Australia. The target market is children in the outback. But let’s just say that some of the recent news and experiences have a lot of parents taking their children out of school.
AI promises to revolutionise the experience of learning by personalising the teaching experience to each child’s dynamic needs. AI can recognise whether a student has grasped something or not, allowing it to tailor the learning to each individual child in real time.
Imagine how much more efficient this is going to make education. How much more could children learn if they each had their own AI tutor? How much would you pay for your child to access such an advantage?
So, AI can make our lives more productive and it could create entirely new industries and opportunities, including for investors. It might also revive industries that have stopped being competitive, such as manufacturing.
In an age of demographic decline and excessive debt, I’d argue that AI offers our best possible way out of the current morass.
Remember, as demographics decline, each person’s share of the national debt burden grows. Unless we become radically more productive, we’re on an unsustainable course. AI could be the shift that puts us back on the right track.
But enough about the advantages on offer from AI. It’s no free lunch.
The fears over AI are fed by the idea that it is somehow different to the technological revolutions that came before it. A bit like the fears that we once had over the atomic bomb, robots and fire…
You should see what riff-raff that the invention of the railroad threatened to bring to the civilised countryside of England.
And then there’s the posters of us all getting electrocuted by the advent of electricity on our streets.
Luckily, we avoided all of those technologies once we realised how dangerous they are…
Perhaps, my use of irony is a bit unfair. And it’s not like those technologies didn’t do some rather serious damage, justifying many of the warnings.
But in the end, humans figured out how to use the technology to our advantage, including everyday norms to make them accessible to us in the ways we actually want.
AI may only seem radically different to the technological change that came before, in other words. And this may be part of the usual cycle of all technologies being adopted. We think each new step is a sea change, each time.
It’s not like we haven’t invented the means to destroy the planet for a few decades, without doing so.
The particular fear is that AI could take on a life of its own. Or that someone programs it in such a way that we lose control.
But these fears still remind me so much of the fears about nuclear weapons or fire. They’re both about losing control. Both have the ability to become extremely dangerous and create feedback loops that become self-sustaining. The preventative nuclear strike, for example.
The Soviets even had the “Dead Hand” program, which could trigger an automated nuclear reprisal attack without the decision of government and military leaders. The potential for things to go haywire is obvious.
And yet, here we are.
I suspect that AI will prove to be equally melodramatic in its intentions… to the extent that it has any in the first place.
And, as successful as political attempts to assign AI with ill intentions may be, we won’t be able to stop it.
Which is an ironic combination.
Of course, all of this creates investment opportunities and threats. The new industries that’ll come out of nowhere and the industries that’ll be revived unexpectedly. Not to mention AI itself, and the companies that’ll make it possible.
The question is whether you’re positioned for the change.
If you want to be on top of all of this, I suggest joining our AI Summit.
Until next time,
Editor, Fortune & Freedom