AI: The Next Great Political Issue

AI is undoubtedly one of the most popular topics dominating our contemporary discussions of technology. Reactions and opinions to the impending reality of an AI-driven world range far and wide. Some like Elon Musk and the late Stephen Hawking view the technology with healthy doses of skepticism and fear, as they believe that the development of advanced AI could spell trouble for the human race. Musk in particular has stated that the rise of AI would be the “most likely cause of WWIII”.

Here is a live look of me recreating to these predictions:

 

Others, see AI in a much more positive lights. Jeff Bezos, for example, has stated that AI is in a “Golden Age” and will eventually allow us to solve problems that “were once seen as science fiction”. Gary Vaynerchuck, the popular social media personality, sees AI as a game-changer for consumer electronics. In particular, voice AI projects to be “just a revolutionary as the iPhone”.

Others individuals and organizations frame the impending technological upheaval through an economic lens. Northwest economist Benjamin Jones forsees the economy experiencing hypergrowth once AI is widely implemented. Major consulting groups like Accenture also view AI doubling economic growth rates by 2035.

Though opinions of AI and its role in our lives are often filled with wonder, awe, and curiosity, we often fail to project how important it will be in other areas of our lives. In particular, the conversation of AI and its role in our society will dominate political discourse. Need proof? Look no further Andrew Yang, whose 2020 election bid centers on the growing threat of economic destabilizing the economy.

 

Yang’s platform is simple: Technology will likely ruin our economy and voting for him is the way to stop it. Such a stance can be seen in his rather dire views: “we’re going to have a million truck drivers out of work who are 94 percent male, with an average level of education of high school or one year of college… That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we’re about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms.”

Yikes.

The remedies for Yang’s predicted issues range from intriguing to radical. For example, Yang intends on implementing a “Freedom Dividend” to misaffected workers. What this would entail is giving workers who are displaced by AI $12,000 annually. Yang here is clearly trying to rebrand the concept of universal basic income, an initiative even Hilary Clinton saw as “unrealistic” in the past election cycle.

Other remedies Yang appears keen on prescribing include imposing a consumption-based tax on corporations that benefit from automation. Other changes suggested by Yang include turning April 15th into a national holiday in order to “make taxes fun”.

Regardless of one’s view of Yang’s positions, many view that these issues are here to stay. Within the next 10-20 years, one can be sure that automation will be at the forefront of our political discourse.

5 comments

  1. Interesting post, Mark! AI is a heated topic recently indeed, and I also enjoyed the debate between Mark Zuckerberg vs. Elon Musk on the threat AI imposes in the near future. Although I am not an expert in this field, I also agree that AI domination will take place any time in the next decade or so regardless of its positive/negative impact in vast dimensions of our lives. The question we must always have in mind is how best to manage it instead of being potentially “manipulated” by AI’s high capability of performing tasks and thinking via algorithm.

    I also agree that AI can be a threat to the human race, but it really depends on how much room we give for the AIs to replace many of the tasks currently performed by humans. If we start relying on AI too much, we will slowly give it too much power without even realizing it. I am afraid if the AIs somehow are able to imitate humans’ way of thinking with the high intelligence from the algorithms (just like the movies), and letting it have too much control or access in our everyday life can be dangerous. I may be too worried, but at the same time I know how weak humans are in terms of making wise decisions and foreseeing potential threats for the future. It’s so easy to choose the most convenient, short-term option, and even the wisest economists or politicians with degrees from Harvard or Oxford make those mistakes. It’s simply ingrained in the human nature, and I just hope that each individual has an autonomy to choose for his/her implementation of AI in his/her life. I wonder if that will eventually separate physical living spaces (like different regions or cities), where people who desire to avoid AI dominating every part of their lives live by themselves away from many who chose convenience over the possible risk of AI’s threat.

  2. I really enjoyed this post Mark. As a huge fan of the potential good and evil AI could bring to the world your article really got me thinking. Although, I look at the possibility of AI taking over the entire world Terminator style a bit far fetched I will say that it is definitely smart to look at the goods that AI offers with a grain of salt. I like to compare this issue to that of the industrial revolution and the vast advancements in machinery during the time. Workers were extremely skeptical and angry with the fact that their jobs were being given to machines, however as time passed new opportunities arose and jobs were created that machines could not yet do. I feel this in part will be very similar to the AI revolution that is in the near future. Workers will originally be distressed by the technology however I think the economy will create new opportunities and jobs for workers in said fields that are effected. This is something I feel Yang fails to address in his views for the technical revolution that is upon us.

  3. We’ll be getting more into this topic tonight!

  4. While I can see how AI can potentially negatively impact society, I think the benefits of such a technology are far greater. For those that can remember, the internet revolutionized how we as consumers gained access to and digested information. It sped up all aspects of life. Now we are on the brink of something similar, where instead of typing or texting a phrase or question, we can now speak and receive the same results at a much quicker pace. For those individuals like Mr. Yang who think they can stop the inevitable, I say…good luck. My only concern is that it doesn’t make us lazy, given anything and everything is just a simple command away.

  5. A thought provoking post. I wrote a blog response here: https://wordpress.com/post/isys6621.com/133303 .

    One thing I didn’t include was Yang’s $12,000 proposal. It could be coincidence, but that was the same number listed in a video I recently watched that discussed Universal Basic Income (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kl39KHS07Xc). Often UBI is mentioned when automation is discussed, because people are afraid there won’t be any reason for them to be paid if all the jobs are gone, so they need a guarantee of personal revenue.

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