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Why AI won’t really replace people, despite its bad press

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From Jerry Kaplan at Technology Review:

Artificial intelligence, it seems, has a PR problem. While it’s true that today’s machines can credibly perform many tasks (playing chess, driving cars) that were once reserved for humans, that doesn’t mean that the machines are growing more intelligent and ambitious. It just means they’re doing what we built them to do.

The robots may be coming, but they are not coming for us—because there is no “they.” Machines are not people, and there’s no persuasive evidence that they are on a path toward sentience.

We’ve been replacing skilled and knowledgeable workers for centuries, but the machines don’t aspire to better jobs and higher employment. Jacquard looms replaced expert needleworkers in the 19th century, but these remarkable devices—programmed with punch cards for a myriad of fabric patterns—didn’t spell doom for dressmakers and tailors. Until the mid-20th century we relied on our best and brightest to do arithmetic—being a “calculator” used to be a highly respected profession. Now that comparably capable devices are given away as promotional trinkets at trade shows, the mathematically minded among us can focus on tasks that require broader skills, like statistical analysis. Soon, your car will be able to drive you to the office upon command, but you don’t have to worry about it signing up with Uber to make a few extra bucks for gas while you’re in a staff meeting (unless you instruct it to). More.

But AI can’t have a PR consultant because it wouldn’t know it had a problem.

See also: Crappy AI is more likely to kill us than super AI


Steve Fuller: Humans will merge with AI

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Technology has always been "taking away jobs," from the beginning of time. And then different kinds of jobs arise and people move on. And in the process, the quality of life and prosperity increases. And every time there is some big innovation people wring their hands about technology destroying jobs. Yes, jobs change over time. The kinds of requirements and needs and desires and preferences of society change over time. But all the hand wringing about AI taking jobs, your job!, rests on pretty weak grounds -- including a fanciful, and often rather naive, view of where we are at on the road to true AI. (Hint: not even close.) What we have now and what we will have for the foreseeable future is tools that we have created to help us do jobs. Real AI -- in the sense of an aware, thinking, never mind conscious, entity -- isn't even on the foreseeable horizon. Eric Anderson
geoffrobinson @4:
The main thing to take away from the article is not that AI won’t take away jobs. It will. But it won’t be conscious. It’s just a tool.
Exactly. You stated it much clearer than I did @3. Thanks. Dionisio
The main thing to take away from the article is not that AI won't take away jobs. It will. But it won't be conscious. It's just a tool. geoffrobinson
On the subject of AI it's obvious that robots and computers could eventually replace most human activities associated with repetitive electromechanical operations, data analysis, information processing, information storage, information transmission, and so on. However, the so-called "strong" AI seems pure hogwash that sells well out there, as much nonsense does. No robot will ever feel what I do when I hold my new grandson in my arms and look at him closely. No machine will ever genuinely compose a song like "Venecia sin ti" and sing it like Aznavour in Spanish (not the singer's first language). That kind of emotion comes only in the human package. My wife likes traveling but I don't. However, I enjoy traveling with her. I would not have bothered to go alone or with someone else to the places we have visited together around the world, unless it's required. The same exact places won't look the same. How can a robot see the same exact places completely different depending on whether someone else is there or not? It might detect different cars, people, clouds, weather, buildings, and even the lack of an expected companion. But what kind of neural network algorithm (or whatever for that matter) could produce such an "emotional" reaction? as the one expressed in that song? Can someone dare to explain that in serious terms that hold water under any rigorous scrutiny? That's all. Nonsense remains nonsense even if it's popular. :) As far as I'm aware of, popularity doesn't make anything turn serious. Actually, many serious things are not popular. OK, back to work. :) Dionisio
mahuna at 1, thanks for a strong response to the author's opinion represented above. One suspects that AI doesn't "want" anything. Thus it would always be the servant of an entity that wants something. News
Either the title is intentionally misleading, or I'm missing something. AI can write a run of the mill Romance Novel in 3 minutes. And of course the guy who owns the AI instance gets all the royalties. Self-driving trucks will eliminate most long haul truck drivers. Long haul trucking is one of the few remaining blue collar jobs that pays well. Farms have been redesigned to grow food in ways that allow mechanical harvesting. A week or 2 ago, I saw a video clip of a machine that harvests lettuce. "Stoop Labor" was one of the worst paying Blue Collar jobs around, and it's why Mexicans were allowed into the US at all. Stoop Labor will soon disappear completely, eliminating whatever is left of migrant workers. In "The Brave New World", the Betas (college-educated people with above average IQs) ran most of the day-to-day world. The Alphas (geniuses) mostly talked to other Alphas and got to decide what the world the Betas were running was supposed to look like. The Gammas, blue collar folk of average and below average IQs, were mostly a source of management problems for the Betas. They were heavily subsidized by various welfare programs, and most got drunk when they weren't sweeping streets or digging ditches. The government of Nigeria considers 85% of the population of Nigeria to be "excess to current needs". That's because the 15% who are Betas and Alphas can run the Nigerian petroleum industry, which is the source of Nigeria's wealth. If the 85% all dropped dead tomorrow, Nigeria would simply stop spending petro dollars on welfare. When I started my first job, EVERY office had Typists. Typists have disappeared, except for a few special situations. This is because "professional" office workers are all expected to be able to use MS Word and various email packages. Cursive writing will soon die out completely because the Gammas never have a need to write anything, and the Betas and Alphas all use wordprocessing. But I get the hint that what you mean is that narrowly defined AI won't eliminate the bulk of jobs for Betas any time soon. But then most Betas (I was a Beta) "work" by having pointless meetings with other Betas. And the importance of a Senior Beta is measured in how many humans report to the Beta and what the Senior Beta's budget is this year. So the Betas help each other to prevent leakage of jobs for Betas, which also keeps the budget up. But when, not if, the Alphas find ways to get smart machines to smooth the wrinkles that Betas currently smooth, the Betas will go the way of the Gammas. If you don't believe that, think about the fact that there used to be LOTS of Stock Brokers, who got paid good money to haggle with other living breathing human Stock Brokers over individual sales of stocks in a noisy, dusty physical Stock Exchange, which was littered with scraps of paper with handwritten notes on them. They're all gone now, replaced by AI packages that advise individuals wishing to buy or sell stocks (or bonds or commodities) whether it's better to buy or sell in the next 5 minutes, and what your "long term" strategy should be for this week. And even in wars, we are quickly approaching the point at which some Alpha or very Senior Beta will spend 5 minutes telling, either through a voice recognition AI or a touch screen, a squadron of self-flying drones what kinds of targets should be destroyed today. There simply isn't any need for human pilots, even at ground consoles. The supersonic jets that follow F-35 won't have cockpits. Etc., etc. The Future belongs to AI. mahuna

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