People have long argued about the future impact of technology. But, as AI is now seemingly everywhere, the concerns surrounding its long term impact may well be in a class by themselves. Like no other technology, AI forces us to explore the boundaries between machines and humans. What will life be like in such an AI future?
Not surprisingly, considerable speculation surrounds this question. At one end we find books and articles exploring AI’s impact on jobs and the economy. Will AI turn out like other major innovations, e.g., steam power, electricity, cars, - highly disruptive in the near term, but ultimately beneficial to society? Or, as our smart machines are being increasingly applied to cognitive activities, will we see more radical economic and societal transformations? We don’t really know.
These concerns are not new. In a 1930 essay, for example, English economist John Maynard Keynes warned about the coming technological unemployment, a new societal disease whereby automation would outrun our ability to create new jobs.