Here’s an article I just published at TheBestSchools.org on the challenge of artificial intelligence to meaningful human work:
… Threats to jobs from technology have been with us since the Industrial Revolution. But in reading the White House paper, one gets the sense “this time is different.” An extended box on page 20 titled “The End of Work?” (the question mark is especially troubling) raises the possibility of AI not just phasing out some jobs but instead phasing out all human work period, rendering human work passé because, if the promise of AI comes true, everything that we can do machines will eventually do better. But even leaving aside such a grand dystopian vision (which these days is promoted with a smile by singularity and transhumanist enthusiasts), the paper argues convincingly that many jobs as we know them now won’t be around much longer. The case study it presents about AVs (automated vehicles) and the human drivers soon to be displaced is hard to discount.
Here at TBS Magazine, technology editor Erik Larson has written a series of insightful articles questioning the more extreme view of AI, which sees AI as superseding human intelligence and rendering humans (and thus human work) obsolete (cf. his general critique of AI as well as his history of computer chess and account of IBM Watson’s computer Jeopardy! player). Against this “strong AI” view, he shows that AI (especially its machine- and deep-learning offspring) have not only failed to prove themselves a match for human intelligence but also seem intrinsically incapable of matching human intelligence (human intelligence considered broadly and not just for narrow tasks, such as playing chess or Jeopardy!).
AI advocates tend to treat expressions of such skepticism as lame attempts by technological unsophisticates to preserve a humanistic vision of the world that is destined to founder against the onslaught of technological advance. But Larson’s argument, and a similar one that I’ve been advancing for over 25 years, is motivated not by a desperate need to preserve human exceptionalism over machines but rather by a sober assessment of the nature of computation and its limitations …