AI will change what work means, how wealth is created, an how society is structured



Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the latter decades of the eighteenth century, the key drivers of economic growth have been technological innovations. The most important of these fall into a category that economists call General-Purpose: think of steam engines and the internal combustion engine.   Each laid the foundation for countless other technologies and industries that ultimately transformed all aspects of society.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is today’s general-purpose technology. AI is manifested when a machine mirrors the cognitive learning functions we associate with the human mind. 

No longer a speculative construct assigned to science fiction or the distant future, AI is today everywhere, from Apple’s Siri to how Uber dispatches drivers to the way Facebook arranges its Newsfeed to healthcare, education, retail, and financial services.  And it’s getting better, not just at automating repetitive tasks like assembling parts in a factory, but complex problem solving that goes beyond the capabilities of humans.   So why the concern?

Like most new technologies, AI is predicted to destroy jobs previously held by less efficient humans.  Unlike past technologies, however, AI is not expected to replace these jobs. 

The phenomenon is called ephmeralization a term coined by the     late R. Buckminster Fuller to describe the ability of technological advancements to do more with less and less human input until eventually you can do almost everything without any human intervention.   


So the salient question becomes: if machines can supply the demand for labor, and at a lower price point, what happens to human beings?