"Intelligent system designers do have ethical responsibilities." I have interviewed John Markoff, technology writer at The New York Times. In 2013 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. The interview is related to his recent book "Machines of Loving Grace: The Quest for Common Ground Between Humans and Robots, published in August of 2015 by HarperCollins Ecco. Do you share the concerns of prominent technology leaders such as Tesla's chief executive, Elon Musk, who suggested we might need to regulate the development of artificial intelligence?
Robots, we are told, are going to take over the world, taking away most jobs as we know them. And yes, it is true that automation will make some jobs disappear. AI is also now intelligent enough that we will probably see a greater range of jobs change than we have ever seen before. This is likely to include some professional jobs that have always been "safe" from automation in the past. We are already seeing the beginning of this with online financial advice, translators, drivers, etc.
Futurist experts have estimated that by the year 2030 computers in the price range of inexpensive laptops will have a computational power that is equivalent to human intelligence. The implications of this change will be dramatic and revolutionary, presenting significant opportunities and challenges to designers. Already machines can process spoken language, recognize human faces, detect our emotions, and target us with highly personalized media content. While technology has tremendous potential to empower humans, soon it will also be used to make them thoroughly obsolete in the workplace, whether by replacing, displacing, or surveilling them. More than ever designers need to look beyond human intelligence and consider the effects of their practice on the world and on what it means to be human.
Artificial intelligence is often perceived as the harbinger of a new age in which robots take over the majority of our jobs. But there is another less alarmist perspective to this that is given much less airtime. Could AI, in fact, create jobs? There is no doubt that automation will cause some jobs to vanish. Equally, it will change some jobs beyond recognition.
In this editorial, we take a look at a post-pandemic dystopia where AI and robotics engulf the flow of labour, talent and the economy. These are our forecasts of an economy optimised by artificial intelligence and ripened by robotics. Robots' infiltration of the workforce doesn't occur at a steady, gradual pace. Instead, automation happens in bursts, concentrated especially in bad times such as the current Covid 19-induced economic paralysis, when humans become relatively more expensive as firms' revenues rapidly decline. At these moments, employers shed less-skilled workers and replace them with technology and higher-skilled workers, which increases labor productivity as a recession tapers off.