Should We Be Afraid Of Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial Intelligence is the next milestone for humanity, and it is not a question of how will we reach there, but when. While there is plenty of support for “the next big thing” in technology, there are even more naysaysers who paint a gloomy image of the future with artificial intelligence.

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A great deal has been written in recent years about the perils of artificial intelligence. The popular view on AI has been shaped by dystopian Hollywood renditions like the “Terminator” series, “Ex-Machina”, and “I, Robot” – where the “evil” artificial intelligence attempts to take over the world and destroy the world. In a less scary future, mass unemployment, declining wages, and increasing inequality has been predicted. So should we believe the naysayers and be afraid.

 

An often cited Oxford University study estimates that no less than 47% of all American jobs and 54% in Europe are at a high risk of being lost to machines. The rest of the world too faces a similar situation with the advent of AI. The study further adds that this rise in unemployment will not take place in the next 100 years, but in the next 20 years.

“The only real difference between enthusiasts and sceptics is a time frame,” notes a New York University professor. “But a century from now, nobody will much care about how long it took, only what happened next.”

A young thought leader from Europe Rutger Bregman says, employees have been worrying about the rising tide of automation for 200 years now, and for 200 years employers have been assuring them that new jobs will naturally materialise to take their place. After all, if you look at the year 1800, some 74% of all Americans were farmers, whereas by 1900 this figure was down to 31%, and by 2000 to a mere 3%.

Yet this hasn’t led to mass unemployment. In 1930, the famous economist John Maynard Keynes was predicting that we’d all be working just 15-hour weeks by the year 2030. Yet, since the 1980s, work has only been taking up more of our time, bringing waves of burnouts and stress in its wake.

The real question, Bregman says, we should be asking ourselves is:

What actually constitutes “work” in this day and age?

In a 2013 survey of 12,000 professionals by the Harvard Business Review, half said they felt their job had no “meaning and significance,” and an equal number were unable to relate to their company’s mission, while another poll among 230,000 employees in 142 countries showed that only 13% of workers actually like their job. A recent poll among Britons revealed that as many as 37% think they have a job that is utterly useless.

If we want to reap the benefits of this technological advance, then we need to rewire our brains towards a brand new definition of “work.”

To understand the meaning of work, we need to ask another question:

What is the meaning of life?

Most people say the meaning of life is to have a positive impact on the world like making it a little more beautiful, or nicer, or more interesting. And the means to this end, people say, is through their work.

 

However, work has been defined as an activity that generates money which contributes to the GDP. This is the primary reason our education systems are tuned to prepare individuals for employment. Yet a growing proportion of people deemed successful say their work is without purpose? Our whole system of finding meaning in our life and work could all dissolve in the blink of an eye.

What would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”? According to Bregman, a universal basic income is the most effective answer to the dilemma of Artificial Intelligence. Not because robots will take over all the purposeful jobs, but because a basic income would give everybody the chance to do meaningful work.

Bregman believes in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. Education too will be reimagined to prepare you for a life well lived and not another useless jobs. He believes in a future where “jobs are for robots, and life is for people.”

He adds that a universal basic income will, in the future, become a right like the right to free speech.

The shelf life of technologies has been rapidly declining. Televisions and refrigerator in the 1960s had a 20-year shelf life, and today smartphones and even TVs have a shelf life of less than 10 months. So the impact of AI on our lives will be shorter than the speed at which evolve to meet the demands of this challenge.

The irony is that technological progress has resulted in us becoming richer, and as we get richer the more time we have to waste. But instead of wasting our time, we could channel our energy towards achieving consciousness – which is the next stage for our needs as human beings.

Let us not waste our time any further and work towards a more meaningful and purpose-driven future. To discover your purpose in life and work, contact Magnum Opus India at 011-42676768 or email us at info@magnumopusindia.com.

 

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