4 out of 4 stars
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The Artificial Intelligence Contagion by David Barnhizer and Daniel Barnhizer warns us that the current proliferation of AI/Robotics systems into American society could potentially have doomsday consequences.
The basic premise in this book is that the use of AI/Robotics systems result in extraordinary cost savings and increased productivity; however, the potential consequences of introducing these systems include social disintegration, large-scale job loss, rising inequality, poverty, and intensified social struggles over scarce resources.
Barnhizer argues that the proliferation of AI systems will cause large scale job loss. For example, self-driving cars, buses, and trucks are expected to displace four million workers in America alone. Half the world's workers could be replaced by machines within the next thirty years. When new AI technologies emerge, transformations will not produce replacement jobs. The need for human involvement is eliminated which will result in increased unemployment or under-employment. Birth rates are dropping and people are living longer. That will lead to lower tax revenues, greater government expenditures, and dramatic increases to the rising national debt. All this will take place in an environment of increased AI surveillance and militarization using AI/Robotics systems. Barnhizer offers possible solutions including tax reforms, large scale infrastructure investments that include human workers, Universal Basic Income (a stipend from the government) and government job guarantee programs for those who cannot obtain employment.
My least favorite thing about the book is that the arguments lack balance. Technological advances are always associated with social upheaval and job displacement. Businesses currently use AI solutions at a lower cost than human counterparts and our lives are better for it. Robots are doing dangerous jobs like defusing bombs, welding, and dealing with hazardous chemicals. Medical care is more precise and personalized by using AI systems. Businesses use AI systems to prevent cyber attacks.
The other thing I didn’t like was the assumption that the people responsible for progress in the area of AI are unaware of or have a total disregard for the risks. Scientists, educators, and regulators are already having discussions about dealing with the impact of AI on employment and ensuring the ethical behavior of AI systems. All technologies need to be managed, regulated, and controlled. We face the same challenges with human cloning and nuclear weapons. We can’t start cloning humans because we are capable of doing that. There are ethical boundaries and frameworks for those technologies.
Even though I strongly disagree with the authors’ vision of the future, I loved reading this book. I hope it challenges people to think through the risks and consequences of developing new AI technologies. It is exceptionally well written and professionally edited. I didn’t see any errors. It is not an easy task to write a book about an extremely complex subject that is so easy to read. I am giving this book an enthusiastic rating of 4 out of 4 stars. Let’s agree to disagree and enjoy the ride!
The Artificial Intelligence Contagion
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