AI, Robots and the future

I’ve noticed  a recent spate of articles in the news as well as the  blogosphere on robots, AI and the impact on society and the labour market so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon.  I wanted to  highlight a couple of  thought provoking pieces I’ve read recently in the Guardian that reference   a recently released BOA report that drew on research from Carl Benedikt Frey & Michael Osborne in this area.

The first was Robot revolution: rise of ‘thinking’ machines could exacerbate inequality which focuses on how the global economy will transform over the next 20 years.  The content isn’t overly radical  – for example the cost efficiency of using robots over people even through offshoring – but it does summarise and tie together important themes.  Unsurprisingly there is no universal agreement on the impact of technology on society as a whole and the article duly refers to it as the “stark divide between techno-optimists and pessimists”.

So what’s my stance on this?  I blogged about technological determinism a while back “Why is everyone so busy? Why our technological future hasn’t really delivered” particularly around the lifestyle gains technology was supposed to deliver.  John Keynes is referenced again and I’m in complete agreement when the piece refers to the need for a societal rethink between the relationship between work and society.  It makes me wonder where the end game may be as efficiency gains from technology continue unabated in conjunction with the continued growth in the world population (here’s a geeky world population clock which I quite like ).  This all does make me question how sustainable education and effective career management could be as agents to offset the fast paced change within job sectors and roles in our lifetimes.

Surely, somewhere in the future the endgame is that we don’t need to work for basic human need?  This would therefore require a huge economic and cultural shift to meet John Keynes utopian vision of 15 hour working weeks.

What if we're already too late?

What if we’re already too late? Image used under CC from

The second article I read mirrors the first.  “Artificial intelligence: ‘Homo sapiens will be split into a handful of gods and the rest of us”.

Picking out a real danger from the advancement of technology  the dangers of marginalisation and inequality are identified.

“technology is leading to a rarification of leading-edge employment, where fewer and fewer people have the necessary skills to work in the frontline of its advances”

It doesn’t yet feel like society has got to grips with the demise of our usefulness in developed economies or the societal changes needed to live in a future world where our role may be one of play and leisure rather than work.  For example, the way those unfortunate enough to be out of work (most of us have been there) are often demonised as a collective group in society tells us perhaps we aren’t ready and conditioned yet.

Alas, both articles are a great read and as ever the blogosphere is a lonely place so make your views known!