Creative Freedom, Not Robots, Is The Future Of Work

Jay Richards on Artificial Intelligence View at YouTube

Can training for an AI future be trusted to bureaucrats? We hear so much about how the artificial intelligence revolution and machine learning robots will gobble industrial era jobs that we don’t notice the digital era jobs unfilled.

The Officially Smart people are telling us two scenarios, good and bad, about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), says Jay Richards, a research professor at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America:

Let me give you the dystopian side, the depressing side of the debate. Sometime in the next five to twenty years, 50% of all jobs are going to go the way of the dodo bird, wiping out massive industries. Many of the people whose jobs have disappeared will never be able to get jobs again… Therefore the government needs to give everybody a universal basic income.

And now for the more cheerful version of our future:

Sometime in the next five to twenty years, 50% of all jobs are going to be destroyed and replaced by robots and artificial intelligence. And it’s going to be awesome because we’re not going to have to do anything! We’re not going to have to work. The robots are going to do it for us!

He helpfully spares us much reading:

“’ve summarized about twenty-five books that have been written in the last three years. And, if you notice something, they share a fundamental assumption: that machines are capable of replacing us.

Richards, the second speaker in the panel discussion at the Dallas launch of the Walter Bradley Center for Natural and Artificial Intelligence and author of The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines, takes issue with the fundamental assumption of both groups, that machines can replace us. He disputes futurist Martin Ford’s claim in Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (2015) that “machines themselves are turning into workers, and the line between the capability of labor and capital is blurring as never before.”

So what does he think will happen?

At the time of the American revolution, he reminded the audience, 95% of the population lived and worked on farms because they had to. Today, about 1 percent do. “So does that mean that 94% of the population is unemployed? Of course not!” He agrees that there will be displacement and disruption as mechanization gives us resources to create new and different jobs: “Anything that can get automated, will get automated. That’s a really good rule of thumb.”

But what can’t be automated? “Creative freedom,” for one thing:

The thing that really distinguishes us is a capacity for developing virtue.” because if you can develop virtue, you have agency, you have first-person experience, you have the capacity to choose between alternatives for a purpose.

And the chief virtue, the one that sets us apart, is the one I call “creative freedom, the ability to train and constrain ourselves so that we can do something meaningfully that we could not have otherwise done. Insofar as that kind of freedom is the origin of new kinds of meaningful information, I think we ought to be more hopeful than worried that in an information economy there will be a place where the human person is at the very center.

The other panelists were Bradley Center director, Baylor Professor of Computer Engineering Robert J. Marks and George Gilder, author of Life after Google: The Fall of Big Data and the Rise of the Blockchain Economy.

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