Artificial intelligence and automation is taking over more and more jobs. Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo recently produced research confirming that:
the recent stagnation of labor demand is explained by an acceleration of automation, particularly in manufacturing, and a deceleration in the creation of new tasks… if the origin of productivity growth in the future continues to be automation, the relative standing of labor… will decline.
That isn’t particularly surprising, because everyone knows about what has been happening to manufacturing employment.
But the NYT reports that more and more journalism is actually being written by robots now including nearly 1/3 of Bloomberg articles.
“robot reporters have been prolific producers of articles on minor league baseball for The Associated Press, high school football for The Washington Post and earthquakes for The Los Angeles Times… Last week, The Guardian’s Australia edition published its first machine-assisted article, an account of annual political donations to the country’s political parties. And Forbes recently announced that it was testing a tool called Bertie to provide reporters with rough drafts and story templates… The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones are experimenting with the technology to help with various tasks, including the transcription of interviews… Patch [is] a nationwide news organization devoted to local news, [with] 110 staff reporters and numerous freelancers who cover about 800 communities… In a given week, more than 3,000 posts on Patch — 5 to 10 percent of its output — are machine-generated… “One thing I’ve noticed,” Mr. St. John said, “is that our A.I.-written articles have zero typos.”
Kelsey Piper reported on a new kind of AI that learned how to write fake news articles and fake product reviews. The most impressive part is that it learned to do this all by itself by reading what humans have written in the past and although it can only write fake news, it is very good at it.
Google demonstrated last summer that Google Assistant can make phone calls and book appointments while sounding just like a human (though the company promised it won’t use deceptive tactics in practice).
Artificial intelligence is so common, we don’t even recognize the numerous examples of our interactions with robotic brains. For example, Facebook uses artificial intelligence to serve up content to try to get you addicted to their services and Amazon uses artificial intelligence to get you to buy more of their products. Even Netflix customizes the images on their homepage for every user to try to get people to spend more time watching Netflix. They don’t just randomly serve up content at all. It is all very calculated.
Every Google search is taking advantage of advanced artificial intelligence too. The other day my father-in-law, Leonard Wiebe, was talking about how one of his friends never wanted to schedule a meeting on Superbowl Sunday and that got us thinking. If you wanted to know when the Superbowl would be held in a year, how would you find out? Nowadays the answer is as easy as a Google search. Google’s artificial intelligence finds answers to questions.
But how would you find the answer without the internet? In the old days, you had to rely upon human intelligence. You could ask a librarian, but most librarians would probably need a lot of time to find the answer and some would have given up. It would probably be faster to call a human operator to get the toll-free number for the NFL and then ask a human receptionist at the NFL. Those jobs are gone forever; replaced by computers. We all benefit equally from the cheaper, better services that computers provide, but it has not boosted most people’s incomes. It has only boosted the incomes of a tiny proportion of people and particularly those who own a handful of tech companies. For example, Gizmodo reported that,
“Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Apple move more money than many medium-sized nations.” Gizmodo reporter Kashmir Hill tried to live without their services and found that it is almost impossible to live without them nowadays because the human we used to rely upon for information have lost their jobs and everyone has reoriented their daily life to use intellectual property or computer servers run by these big five.
Needless to say, the owners of those companies have become fabulously wealthy and by eliminating numerous other jobs, they have contributed to widening inequality in America in the process of amassing enormous power.
If these five companies collectively decided to overthrow the American government, I have no doubt that they could do it by coordinating a populist electoral revolt that could elect a new political party with enough control to re-write the constitution. Similarly, in China, the government controls more than the equivalent of Amazon, Facebook, and Google which gives the Chinese government incredible power to prevent revolt by controlling the information that the Chinese people see.