Can society afford A.I.?

Of course, the wider society can live without AI, until such time as AI becomes genuinely useful to average folks. But that’s probably too late for much of society.

It might take five years to gain widespread adoption at the consumer level. Until then, AI will bring havoc to a society and a world ill-prepared for such a monumentally transformative technology.

There will be winners, of course. And throngs of losers in the short to medium term. And a heavy price to pay by society at large: Fear & uncertainty, widening poverty gap, negative climate change due to excessive carbon emissions, dangerous biases, legislative changes, scams, and ultimately the risk of losing much of Gen Y and Z to burn-out.

Yet, A(G)I is here to stay. It hasn’t really impacted at all on society, but no-one who has played with it is under any illusion of the changes it will force through before the end of the decade.

Gone will be many traditional careers; a job that involves structured human interaction with others is easy to augment or replace with GAI. So that’s doctors, accountants, bankers, administrators, and supervisors. It will supercharge the productivity exponentially, driving down per unit resource costs faster than any time since the industrial revolution.

For example: Why would you pay a single GP £100,000 per annum for every 2k patients, when an AI assisted GP might cope with 20k patients – and without a two week wait for a consult. AI doesn’t need a holiday, or overtime, or sleep, or maternity leave, or goes on strike. In fact, the more it works, the better it becomes.

AI is already deeply embedded in many of our lives, the recommendation engine in Netflix, Voice assistants, Google search, your smartphone, the list goes on. As these “agents” get more powerful and understand more, they will become ubiquitous and erode our need and ability to make reasoned choice.

If AI does a better job of something than we can, and the cost is pennies for a few CPU cycles, what will we do? How can we contribute to society in a meaningful way, or are we all just better off on UBI, consuming what our AI overloads tell us to.

Jesus, Skynet has truly arrived, dressed in a Q* frock.