Edge interview with Kai-Fu Lee

The Edge interview with Kai-Fu Lee is very good. He is one of the original A.I. researchers and has worked in the industry for most of the big name technology companies.

He discusses the history of A.I., the current situation involving Deep Learning, and goes on to talk about the future.”We’re all going to face a very challenging next fifteen or twenty years, when half of the jobs are going to be replaced by machines. Humans have never seen this scale of massive job decimation.”

He talks about areas that will see a lot of growth in the immediate future. Micro-payments, the Internet of Things, social networks delivering profiles that will trade privacy for convenience.

He talks about the Haves and the Have Nots: “The people who are inventing these AI algorithms, building AI companies, they will become the haves. The people whose jobs are replaced will be the have nots. And the gap between them, whether it’s in wealth or power, will be dramatic, and will be perhaps the largest that mankind has ever experienced.”

He also talks about a growing inequality amoung countries: “Lastly, and perhaps most difficult to solve, is the gap between countries. The countries that have AI technology will be much better off. They’ll be creating and extracting value. The countries that have large populations of users whose data is gathered and iterated through the AI algorithm, they’ll be in good shape.”

Technological Unemployment

There is a great graph-filled post over at Slate Star Codex called Technological Unemployment – much more than you wanted to know. After analysing a lot of data from the US economy, the author arrives at some tentative conclusions: The main point seems to be that the evidence for large-scale technological unemployment is mixed. There is evidence of technological underemployment however. There are signs that people are now struggling to adjust. The final paragraph is:

 “This is a very depressing conclusion. If technology didn’t cause problems, that would be great. If technology made lots of people unemployed, that would be hard to miss, and the government might eventually be willing to subsidize something like a universal basic income. But we won’t get that. We’ll just get people being pushed into worse and worse jobs, in a way that does not inspire widespread sympathy or collective action. The prospect of educational, social, or political intervention remains murky.”

Long-Term Unemployment and Job Prospects

There is a very scary article on the Atlantic about how you essentially become shunned by employers after 6 months of unemployment. It is about an experiment by Rand Ghayad of Northeastern University. He applied for 600 job openings using fake resumes, within which he varied 3 factors – how long the applicant had been out of work, how often they had switched jobs, and how much experience they have. What he found is that how long you’ve been out of work is the most important thing that employers look at. People prefer to hire someone with no experience, than someone that has been out of a job for more than 6 months. Scary stuff.