You can kiss goodbye to your job, at least there is a 50 per cent chance of that, but you can also say goodbye to poverty, says a venture capitalist specialising in tech.
Kai-Fu Lee, a man who has worked at Apple, Google and Microsoft, has been talking about AI, and singularity.
Singularity, relates to some theoretical point in the near future when machines design machines. This leads to a kind of take-off, in which technology advances at such a rapid rate that quantum shifts in the state of art may end up being just days apart, rather than decades, which is what we have become used to.
In an interview on CNBC, he talked about the ability of machines to recognise three million faces at the same time. He said: “These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50 percent of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty."
Coining the phrase the ‘singular thing’ to describe singularity he said: “singular thing will be larger than all of human tech revolutions added together, including electricity, [the] industrial revolution, internet, mobile internet — because AI is pervasive."
So, does that means it is curtains for us? For all of us?
He said that humans will always score over machines for interaction, saying: “Touching one's heart with your heart is something that machines, I believe, will never be good at.”
In short, machines won’t ever fall in love, won’t be any good at providing empathy – won’t be good at jobs such as nursing, or caring or counselling that require empathy. Alas, these are jobs that are poorly paid, and if David Cameron’s Big Society ever takes off, they may not be paid at all.
But if AI and robots really do wipe out 50 per cent of jobs within ten years, won’t this turn society upside down?
And unless a way can be found to get the fruits from the production created by AI and robotics to trickle down into the pockets and purses of the mass population, instead of ending poverty, we will get extreme inequality.
If Mr Lee is right, and frankly while the time frame may be out, there is a good chance he is broadly right, isn’t this the most important issue of the age? Why aren’t more people talking about it?
Brexit is a side show, in comparison.
People who slate the idea of universal basic income, overlook the above dialogue – sure, paying every man, women and child a fixed amount of money may not be viable right now, but if this ‘singular thing’ does occur, Universal Basic Income may be the only way to stop some kind of collapse in society.
Back in 2014, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne from Oxford University produced a reported called The Future of employment: how susceptible are jobs to computerisation.
They said that the type of jobs most likely to be replaced by computers and robots are jobs involving manual dexterity, finger dexterity, and working in cramped spaces. They say jobs that involve a high level of social intelligence are less likely to be disrupted. Occupations that are likely to be safer include those which involve developing ideas, originality, negotiation, social perceptiveness, and assisting or caring for others.
They are very specific too. They suggest that the type of job that is most likely to be done by machines is telemarketing. Other jobs that sit high in their list of occupations they identify as likely to be replaced by technology include insurance appraisers, insurance underwriters, and tax preparers. On the other hand, occupational therapists, mental health counsellors, healthcare social workers and teachers seem quite safe from disruption.
As for timing, they say that in 2030 the types of jobs that are least at risk from technology will be jobs that involve social intelligence, creativity or working in a complex and unstructured environment, including choreographers, physicians and surgeons, and podiatrists.