In an article titled ‘Why The World Hates Silicon Valley‘, Newsweek makes some points that expand upon the Guardian’s six-part series on artificial intelligence that I mentioned yesterday. Here’s an excerpt.
Artificial intelligence is a game-changing technology, much like cloud-based apps over the past five years. It will be the basis for inventions we can hardly imagine now. (How about an AI-driven tiny drone that learns to buzz around and keep an eye on a building, replacing security guards? It’s coming!) And 3-D printing will get good enough so that a company like Nike will no longer make shoes in Asia and ship them back to the U.S. Instead, it will “print” them in a network of thousands of small factories peppered throughout cities and towns—so you can pick up your ready-made sneakers locally. Blockchain—the complex technology behind bitcoin—is only beginning to remake the financial industry. Virtual reality will get good enough to reinvent stuff like tourism, sports and doctor’s office visits. Biotech, robotics—an incredible array of technology is ready to burst upon us.
The impact will be so dramatic, Hemant Taneja of General Catalyst Partners tells me we’re heading into a “global application rewrite.” We are about to take apart every product and service in the world and put it back together with data, AI and all this other new stuff.
. . .
If you pick up your mobile phone, you’ll see a lot on there that you used to pay for and now comes free or cheap. You have a camera and a flashlight, both of which you used to buy. News is free—no need to buy a newspaper. International calls are cheap on Skype. Music—free or cheap on Spotify.
That device is just one example of the impact of technology and globalization. It’s increasingly making more things cheap or free, in many ways lowering our cost of living. That works on physical goods too—tech and global manufacturing are why you can buy nice clothes at H&M for way less than similar items cost 20 years ago. Technology will only accelerate this trend. Mike Maples, partner at tech investment company Floodgate, tells me we’re heading into an age of abundance, when we’ll have access to much more for much less than ever before. We’ll live better lives on less money. Which seems quite good.
However, … that same dynamic crushes the middle class by killing jobs and shrinking salaries. If more stuff is free or cheap, fewer people can earn money making and selling things. Instead, when something gets reduced to a cloud-based app, relatively few people can make it and sell it around the planet—and rake in all the money. Consider maps. Lots of companies used to print them, and lots of stores sold them. Today, there’s one consumer map company that matters globally: Google, based in Mountain View, California. Google gets all the map money, and most of those map jobs are gone.
For much of the world outside of Silicon Valley, the bad is starting to feel worse than the good. We love our phones and apps and cheap things, but we don’t like feeling economically marginalized.
There’s much more at the link.
It’s certainly thought-provoking stuff. I’ve been saying for years that a great many ‘conventional’ jobs are under threat from the rise of artificial intelligence, robotics and automation in general. I fear that far too many people are simply shrugging their shoulders and ‘giving up’ because they don’t think there’s anything they can do about it. Others are turning their faces away from the prospect and refusing to face it, pretending it won’t happen to them.
I fear it’s going to happen to a lot of us. We need to be preparing our game plan now, so that we can re-train for jobs that won’t be automated out from under us, or make other plans for a sustainable future for ourselves . . . because nobody else will.