But is that all? You might expect an urgent need to find a purpose for technology that consumes more electricity than Australia and has failed to develop real-world functions other than paying ransoms, drugs, or child pornography. Once you get past the dumber theories, you’re left with little more than slogans. It’s high tech.
I’m talking about issues that go far beyond cryptocurrencies. Lack of purpose, lack of reason for society to keep producing more “new, new” despite the costs. This is caused by a narrative devised in Silicon Valley with all technology and inevitably powering human progress.
In Tani’s story, this progress is best left to the Luddites to interrogate. But the confident march of new technology into society requires critical appraisal. With the casualties of progress piling up, it’s been questioned why we’re even deploying such technology in the first place.
The societal impact of social media is not only proven to distort public discourse by spreading misinformation faster than the truth can keep up. As many observers have also complained, they replace physical social connections with online ones, constructing an alternate reality open to manipulation for the pursuit of profit.
Deployed by corporate managers to automate processes and take over increasingly complex decisions, robots have built better agents. But its reputation rests on unverified assumptions. First, automation will inevitably improve a company’s profitability. Second, the results of this progress should be shared widely throughout society.
Stories say that more productive firms expand production and hire more workers. Automation also creates new tasks for humans to do within the enterprise. Income growth in line with productivity creates demand for new products and services, further promoting employment. And more competition for labor will push up wages.
But while these propositions make sense, on the face of it they don’t quite match what we see in the real world, where job growth happens mostly in cheap labor unions like McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. Those who think the benefits are widely shared are not paying attention.
A new wave of economic research on the consequences of technological change finds that technology’s bias toward automation can explain most of the widening wage gap, with less educated workers being pushed out of work and seeing wages fall. polarizing the labor market between And mostly those who are college graduates or graduate students and those who are not.
Technology certainly requires new jobs and opens doors to new jobs, but they too are skewed toward highly educated workers and workers with only basic skills whose jobs have been taken over by machines. are rarely provided to
According to research by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, and Utrecht University, the economy produced large amounts of middle-wage production and clerical jobs between 1940 and 1980. However, many of them are now lost. The jobs that have been created since then have either been high-paying professional jobs or low-paying service gigs.
Now we just have to wait for artificial intelligence to make a big leap forward. What Google CEO Sundar Pichai calls “the most important thing mankind has ever tackled” is the sheer reduction of human activity to what Valley Money likes to call “destruction.” Open a new area. Displaced workers in the next version of ChatGPT will now play their usual role in the story of progress: run over.
The problem of progress isn’t just how we share our achievements. The very profit is at issue. Elon He may remember Musk admitting that “humans are underrated.” This was a rare admission of error after his attempts to automate Tesla’s assembly line led to delays and malfunctions. Mistakes are common. Technology’s contribution to productivity is often elusive.
As Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has observed, a lot of automation has a modest effect on the bottom line. Think McDonald’s automated customer service or touch screens. In any case, he has two reasons why managers do automation. It’s “progress” and everyone is automating it. Also, the costs to workers displaced by new technologies are irrelevant to companies. So even with very little earnings, it’s worth it.
Innovation, in some ways, is happening at a breakneck pace. In 2020, the US Patent Office issued over 350,000 invention patents for him. That’s nearly six times what he did in 1980, at the dawn of the digital revolution. However, total factor productivity during this period grew by only 0.7% per annum on average, less than a third of its growth rate from the 1940s to the 1970s.
Tech optimists in Cupertino and Mountain View tend to dismiss dismal numbers as mismeasurements — data processors miss all the good — many serious academics believe that all good IT is not necessarily We’re getting closer to the idea that it won’t necessarily bring about a productivity revolution.
Innovation is undeniably cool. So we survive the diseases that used to kill us on a regular basis. We can access and process an unimaginable amount of information. Without new technologies, we cannot meet the challenges of decarbonizing the economy and mitigating climate change.
But, as Acemoglu and his MIT colleague Simon Johnson point out in their forthcoming book, Power and Progress (to be published in May), the long story of modern evidence and human technological development is ” There is nothing automatic about new technologies bringing widespread prosperity. Whether or not to do so is an economic, social and political choice.”
They argue that Silicon Valley should not feel entitled to make the call. As the venture capital industry seeks opportunities for AI to take over an increasing number of tasks and decisions, such as playing Go, practicing law, and analyzing markets, Acemoglu and Johnson argue that technological advances are driving society down a dark path. I am afraid to be
What if, instead of increasing productivity, AI simply redistributed power and prosperity from ordinary people to those who control data? What if it impoverished billions of people in developing countries? For example, what if we reinforce bias based on skin color? What if it destroys democratic institutions?
“There is growing evidence that all these concerns are justified,” they wrote.
Skynet can be avoided. Technology doesn’t have to lead us to an oligarchic dystopia. The past 150 years are filled with technological breakthroughs that have empowered workers and lifted all ships.
Think mouse and graphic computer interface, Excel, or email. These inventions expanded human capabilities rather than extinguishing them. Arguably the most significant technological revolution in our history, the transformation of the agricultural economy into an industrial powerhouse has made the working class much wealthier.
We have amazing tech tools at our disposal. The question is whether to deploy them in a way that complements humans, or discard them like redundant castoffs in the march to progress.
It may not be clear how to deploy technology along a more human-centric path. Build tools that amplify what humanity is capable of. One thing is clear, though. It requires unwavering decisions about the direction of innovation from technology oligarchy that profit from human eviction and social marginalization.
Second, they can spread misinformation, grab your audience’s attention, and build social media platforms that aren’t optimized to maximize advertising revenue. You may not be able to replace your US company’s customer service representatives with machines that don’t offer such things. And we may not accept accelerating climate change just to find new ways to pay for the illegal.
More thoughts from other Bloomberg writers:
• AI now saves art from itself: Leonid Bershidsky
• ChatGPT is not Microsoft’s Bing silver bullet: Parmy Olson
• Why it’s so hard to predict the future of technology: Fay Hulam
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
Eduardo Porter is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Latin America, US economic policy and immigration. He is the author of “American Poison: How Racial Hostility Destroyed Our Promise” and “The Price of Everything: Finding Method in the Madness of What Things Cost”.
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