Artificial intelligence may create jobs as well as destroy them

In the near-term, AI will likely augment human workers, rather than replace them, taking over tasks rather than jobs themselves.

Still, whole categories of workers, from truck drivers to lawyer to radiologists, will be affected, and there likely will be fewer of them. Artificial intelligence will also create new jobs, but those are harder to imagine than the existing jobs that will likely be lost. In the long-term, AI could be a net job creator, according to researchers in Stanford’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.

This week, ImpactAlpha is extracting nuggets from Stanford’s 100-year look at AI’s long-term possibilities and dangers. AI may create new markets as information systems already have; think app stores and AirBnB and taskrabbit. AI could lower the cost of goods and services, making everyone richer. And AI may also allow small companies to tap big markets, increasing startup success.

“There may be a natural scale of human enterprise, perhaps where the CEO can know everyone in the company,” the report posits. “Through the creation of efficiently outsourced labor markets enabled by AI, enterprises may tend towards that natural size.”

But it’s also likely that “a majority of citizens may find the value of their labor insufficient to pay for a socially acceptable standard of living.” It’s not too soon for the social debate on how the economic fruits of AI-technologies should be shared, through mechanisms such as a robot tax or universal basic income. Tests of such income schemes are underway in San Francisco, Kenya, Finland and elsewhere.

“AI may be thought of as a radically different mechanism of wealth creation in which everyone should be entitled to a portion of the world’s AI-produced treasure,” the report suggests. “As children in traditional societies support their aging parents, perhaps our artificially intelligent ‘children’ should support us, the ‘parents’ of their intelligence.”

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