I recently wrote this paper as part of a job application. Open sourcing it here for your enjoyment sans references/MLA format. -Candy
Cyborgs, singularity, identity loss, loss of control and power – these are but a handful of dystopian scenarios proposed throughout the media, online forums, university lectures, and board meetings alike when the topic of artificial intelligence (A.I.) arises. The dizzying speed in which technology helps shape the social and political spheres only intensifies the global magnitude of such theoretical threats.
While this assortment of human upheaval is cause for dialogue and debate, far more time-sensitive issues surrounding A.I. are facing humans – issues that imply indelible and often negative transformation. Further, as a mainstream implementation, A.I. will most undoubtedly bring about two realities: massive wealth concentration and a high unemployment rate. This essay will further explore the threat of A.I. by further illustrating these two risks.
In its current state, A.I. is not a thinking, feeling, self-aware digital entity, but rather a technology that vacuums up large quantities of information from a specific domain, while applying it to a use case to achieve a goal. For example, if given a data set consisting of user and his financial history, A.I. can efficiently decide on if that user is qualified for a home loan. The A.I. architecture in this scenario is highly scalable, since the data sets are relatively static and parameters are limited.
Significantly, the upcoming incarnation of A.I. will not take certain jobs and replace them with others, but rather do away with the job altogether. This decimation will most largely affect low-skill/low-wage jobs: customer service representatives, restaurant staff, drivers. Further, A.I.’s domain-specific information processing is not necessarily limited to low-wage/low-skill, but rather any task or skillset that is contained. Conversely, jobs that require creative problem solving or multi-disciplinary approaches, such as management positions or even those in the criminal justice field, are poorly suited for A.I. While this may be a welcome relief for those in such domain-crossing fields, it is further a threat to single-domain workers who may not have the aptitude to train into a ‘safe’ multi-disciplinary career field, while the corporations who stand to benefit from this technology are concentrated in their efforts of profit-making from such ventures.
Critically, this transformation of the global labor force is neither coincidence nor collective effort, but rather an engineered effort funded by a small cluster of for-profit organizations, threatening the geopolitical landscape. These corporations, nearly exclusively located in the United States and China, benefit from a highly profitable cycle where high-volume data sets improve the product, which in turn further improves the data set. Such a concentrated market share has numerous geopolitical implications, including exacerbating current global economic inequality and the shifting of alliances based on economic arrangements brokered between nations, A.I. corporations, and a combination thereof.
The technical revolution has proffered solutions to myriad problems. The next wave of technology, expressed through A.I., is potentially threatening to humans, but not in the ways commonly sensationalized by those outside the A.I. and technical research fields. While A.I. can further yield solutions to even more problems, the threats of single-discipline workers and massive wealth concentration are fast-approaching realities that must be addressed by policy makers, technical stakeholders, and the human population at large in order to minimize potentially damaging outcomes as A.I. continues to expand.