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.”
Bloomberg primarily writes for the financial industry and it is fitting that Bloomberg has robots write for financial traders because about 92% of forex trades are done by robots and about 2/3 of stock trades. It is robots writing for people who mostly compete with robots in financial markets!
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).
More recently, a student at the University of California, Berkeley used an OpenAI program called GPT-3 to generate several blog posts.
[He] posted them on the internet, where they were read by 26,000 people. Sixty viewers were inspired to subscribe to the blog, and only a few suspected that the posts were written by a machine.
They were not necessarily gullible people. One of the blog posts — which argued that you can increase your productivity if you avoid thinking too much about everything you do — rose to the top of the leader board on Hacker News, a site where seasoned Silicon Valley programmers, engineers and entrepreneurs rate news articles and other online content.
My blogging doesn’t get as much attention as that AI, but then I’m not writing to generate attention. Commercial companies focus their algorithms on maximizing attention which isn’t the same thing as seeking truth and unique analysis.
Artificial intelligence is already so common, we don’t 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 was talking about how one of his friends never wanted to schedule future meetings on Superbowl Sunday and that got us thinking. If you wanted to know when the Superbowl would be held next 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 everyone’s incomes equally. 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 because the kind of librarians and phone operators and map publishers we used to rely upon for information have lost their jobs and everyone has reoriented their daily life to use computer servers and intellectual property owned by the 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 using their collective influence to engender a populist electoral revolt that could elect a new political party with enough control to re-write the constitution. China is already using that kind of information power. In China, the government controls the equivalent of Amazon, Facebook, and Google which gives the Chinese government incredible power to prevent dissent by controlling the information that all Chinese people see and tracking every online purchase and cellphone position and electronic communication every day.