[Marxism] AI and robots threaten to unleash mass unemployment, scientists warn

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Feb 15 06:06:49 MST 2016

FT, February 14, 2016 12:55 pm
AI and robots threaten to unleash mass unemployment, scientists warn
Clive Cookson in Washington

Scientists have warned that rapid strides in the development of 
artificial intelligence and robotics threatens the prospect of mass 
unemployment, affecting everyone from drivers to sex workers.
Intelligent machines will soon replace human workers in all sectors of 
the economy, senior computer scientists told the American Association 
for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington at the weekend.

“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform 
humans at almost any task,” said Moshe Vardi, computer science professor 
at Rice University in Texas. “Society needs to confront this question 
before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work 
humans can do, what will humans do?

“A typical answer is that we will be free to pursue leisure activities,” 
Prof Vardi said. “[But] I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life 
appealing. I believe that work is essential to human wellbeing.”

“AI is moving rapidly from academic research into the real world,” said 
Bart Selman, professor of computer science at Cornell University. 
“Computers are starting to ‘hear’ and ‘see’ as humans do . . . Systems 
can start to move and operate among us autonomously.” He said companies 
such as Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft were scaling up investments 
in AI systems to billions of dollars a year.

Professors Vardi and Selman said governments — and society as a whole — 
were not facing up to the acceleration of AI and robotics research. Prof 
Selman helped draft an open letter issued last year by the Future of 
Life Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, urging policymakers to 
explore the risks associated with increasingly intelligent machines.
Among the 10,000 or so signatories to the letter is Elon Musk, the tech 
entrepreneur whose company Tesla Motors has a large AI research 
programme aimed at developing self-driving cars.

Mr Musk will fund research at Cornell University “on keeping AI 
beneficial to humans”, said Prof Selman. The project will predict 
whether and, if so when, “super-intelligence” — all-round superiority of 
machine to human intelligence — might be achieved.

According to Prof Selman, one of the fastest advancing areas of AI is 
machine vision, and particularly facial recognition. “Facebook can 
recognise faces better than any of us,” he said. Machine vision is key 
to the self-driving vehicles that scientists predict will take over our 
roads in the next 25 years. Prof Vardi said automated driving would cut 
accidents by 90 per cent or more, compared with vehicles driven by 
error-prone people.

“With so many lives saved and injuries prevented, it would be hard 
morally for anyone to argue against it,” he said. Yet around 10 per cent 
of all US jobs involve driving a vehicle, he added, “and most of those 
will disappear”.

Prof Vardi said it would be hard to think of any jobs that would not be 
vulnerable to robotics and AI — even sex workers. “Are you going to bet 
against sex robots?” he asked. “I’m not.”

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