Feb 18, 2023

AI and the Transformation of the Human Spirit

Posted by in categories: business, economics, employment, encryption, mathematics, robotics/AI, transportation

A second problem is the risk of technological job loss. This is not a new worry; people have been complaining about it since the loom, and the arguments surrounding it have become stylized: critics are Luddites who hate progress. Whither the chandlers, the lamplighters, the hansom cabbies? When technology closes one door, it opens another, and the flow of human energy and talent is simply redirected. As Joseph Schumpeter famously said, it is all just part of the creative destruction of capitalism. Even the looming prospect of self-driving trucks putting 3.5 million US truck drivers out of a job is business as usual. Unemployed truckers can just learn to code instead, right?

Those familiar replies make sense only if there are always things left for people to do, jobs that can’t be automated or done by computers. Now AI is coming for the knowledge economy as well, and the domain of humans-only jobs is dwindling absolutely, not merely morphing into something new. The truckers can learn to code, and when AI takes that over, coders can… do something or other. On the other hand, while technological unemployment may be long-term, its problematicity might be short-term. If our AI future is genuinely as unpredictable and as revolutionary as I suspect, then even the sort of economic system we will have in that future is unknown.

A third problem is the threat of student dishonesty. During a conversation about GPT-3, a math professor told me “welcome to my world.” Mathematicians have long fought a losing battle against tools like Photomath, which allows students to snap a photo of their homework and then instantly solves it for them, showing all the needed steps. Now AI has come for the humanities and indeed for everyone. I have seen many university faculty insist that AI surely could not respond to their hyper-specific writing prompts, or assert that at best an AI could only write a barely passing paper, or appeal to this or that software that claims to spot AI products. Other researchers are trying to develop encrypted watermarks to identify AI output. All of this desperate optimism smacks of nothing more than the first stage of grief: denial.

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