June 5, 2017 by Lee Camp
A new study out of Oxford and Yale shows that Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts believe there’s a 50% chance AI will surpass humans in all jobs within 45 years and a 10% chance they’ll do it within 9 years. If you’re an average human being, you now think to yourself, “They mean jobs like laying bricks or sweeping up, certainly not jobs like mine of [fill in job that takes moderate level of skill or creativity]. Nobody wants A BOT to [fill in same task but make it sound more interesting and personal]!! People want a human being doing that. [Insert nervous laughter.]”
But in fact, this study is talking about ALL jobs including things like surgeon, author, salesperson, barista–who-puts-a-little-extra-flare-into-the-design-in-the-foam-on-the-top-of-your-cappuccino-because-he-finds-you-attractive-and-is-hoping-you’ll-realize-he’s-really-more-of-an-artist-than-a-coffee-maker. …Bots will be able to do ALL those jobs. It is a testament to our simple brains that most of us think AI won’t be capable of any form of creative thought or deep analysis such as a doctor puts into making a diagnosis. But in fact in many ways bots ALREADY beat out doctors. In fact one algorithm that was created using the steps human doctors go through to make a diagnosis – ended up beating the doctors at making diagnoses. …You read that right. An algorithm created FROM the thought-process of human doctors was ultimately more correct THAN the doctors it was created from. How is that possible? Well, the bot took out the human factor. It was less likely to get distracted by noise that didn’t matter or to assess probabilities incorrectly.
But wait, don’t shit yourself just yet! …And if you do, just know a bot will be able to shit itself better than you within ten years. The AI revolution that is actually already taking place WILL be a wonderful thing for humanity – if we deal with it correctly. And that IF is about the biggest IF you’ve ever seen, with the possible exception of that time you found out that girl/guy you really really liked was actually gay/straight and would totally sleep with you IF you were the opposite gender of what you are. (“If’s” can be a real bitch sometimes.) Anyway, if we accept our fate that bots will be doing basically every job (including writing best-selling novels and pop songs) within 100 years then it should clear the way for an awesome jobless future in which we simply enjoy our lives and focus on growing our minds, exploring the heavens, and appreciating the mere cosmic seconds in which we grasp something resembling awareness. …Or you could play Call of Duty for your pivotal years.
The point is that we are rapidly heading towards a jobless future. And we already have the technological ability to feed, clothe, and house every human on the planet. We just don’t do it because capitalism tells us we need to let the poor suffer immeasurably so that we can be rich. And I don’t mean “rich” as in owning three yachts, two of which are just back-up yachts for when your main yacht has dirty sheets on the beds. I’m talking about “rich” as in having a house, an income, and basically all the food you want. (Don’t think we can feed everyone? The US throws away 40% of all of our food.)
So if we have the ability to take care of everyone and we have a future in which bots will do most of the jobs, why does it seem that we are planning for a future in which we all work harder than ever to make less money than ever to enjoy our lives less than ever? Why do that? It comes down to a societal mental illness. Getting people to see outside of it is incredibly difficult. How do you break people of an operating system that practically consumes our cultural consciousness? It’s like trying to explain to a water spider that he’s lived his entire life only on the surface of the water and there’s an entire world just below his feet even though he’s never noticed. (Although I imagine every once in awhile something living down there comes up and eats one of his friends… So maybe water spiders are in fact acutely aware of the world below them and want nothing to do with it – in which case I apologize for this analogy.)
There are half-steps to get to a much better future – things like basic income. The basic income movement says that every single citizen should get paid a monthly stipend (let’s say a thousand dollars) whether they work or not, whether they’re rich or not, whether they spend their afternoons dressed up as Jabba The Hutt or not (one hopes not). This makes A LOT more sense than you think it does, and studies show it to be a huge success. It would eliminate homelessness and hunger in our society to begin with. And believe it or not, even Florida – crazy ass Florida – recently noticed that housing and taking care of homeless actually SAVES the city money. California just found out that giving everyone single payer healthcare actually SAVES the state money.
Look, our thinking is backwards. Our society is set up wrong. The jobs will be gone soon. We need to start rethinking our world before we allow a deep delusion to devour us whole.