Experts Predict When Artificial Intelligence Will Take Our Jobs: From Writing Essays, Books & Songs, to Performing Surgery and Driving Trucks

Image via Flickr Com­mons

We know they’re com­ing. The robots. To take our jobs. While humans turn on each oth­er, find scape­goats, try to bring back the past, and ignore the future, machine intel­li­gences replace us as quick­ly as their design­ers get them out of beta test­ing. We can’t exact­ly blame the robots. They don’t have any say in the mat­ter. Not yet, any­way. But it’s a fait accom­pli say the experts. “The promise,” writes MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review, “is that intel­li­gent machines will be able to do every task bet­ter and more cheap­ly than humans. Right­ly or wrong­ly, one indus­try after anoth­er is falling under its spell, even though few have ben­e­fit­ed sig­nif­i­cant­ly so far.”

The ques­tion, then, is not if, but “when will arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence exceed human per­for­mance?” And some answers come from a paper called, appro­pri­ate­ly, “When Will AI Exceed Human Per­for­mance? Evi­dence from AI Experts.” In this study, Kat­ja Grace of the Future of Human­i­ty Insti­tute at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and sev­er­al of her col­leagues “sur­veyed the world’s lead­ing researchers in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence by ask­ing them when they think intel­li­gent machines will bet­ter humans in a wide range of tasks.”

You can see many of the answers plot­ted on the chart above. Grace and her co-authors asked 1,634 experts, and found that they “believe there is a 50% chance of AI out­per­form­ing humans in all tasks in 45 years and of automat­ing all human jobs in 120 years.” That means all jobs: not only dri­ving trucks, deliv­er­ing by drone, run­ning cash reg­is­ters, gas sta­tions, phone sup­port, weath­er fore­casts, invest­ment bank­ing, etc, but also per­form­ing surgery, which may hap­pen in less than 40 years, and writ­ing New York Times best­sellers, which may hap­pen by 2049.

That’s right, AI may per­form our cul­tur­al and intel­lec­tu­al labor, mak­ing art and films, writ­ing books and essays, and cre­at­ing music. Or so the experts say. Already a Japan­ese AI pro­gram has writ­ten a short nov­el, and almost won a lit­er­ary prize for it. And the first mile­stone on the chart has already been reached; last year, Google’s AI Alpha­Go beat Lee Sedol, the South Kore­an grand­mas­ter of Go, the ancient Chi­nese game “that’s expo­nen­tial­ly more com­plex than chess,” as Cade Metz writes at Wired. (Humane video game design, on the oth­er hand, may have a ways to go yet.)

Per­haps these feats part­ly explain why, as Grace and the oth­er researchers found, Asian respon­dents expect­ed the rise of the machines “much soon­er than North Amer­i­ca.” Oth­er cul­tur­al rea­sons sure­ly abound—likely those same quirks that make Amer­i­cans embrace cre­ation­ism, cli­mate-denial, and fear­ful con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries and nos­tal­gia by the tens of mil­lions. The future may be fright­en­ing, but we should have seen this com­ing. Sci-fi vision­ar­ies have warned us for decades to pre­pare for our tech­nol­o­gy to over­take us.

In the 1960s Alan Watts fore­saw the future of automa­tion and the almost patho­log­i­cal fix­a­tion we would devel­op for “job cre­ation” as more and more nec­es­sary tasks fell to the robots and human labor became increas­ing­ly super­flu­ous. (Hear him make his pre­dic­tion above.) Like many a tech­nol­o­gist and futur­ist today, Watts advo­cat­ed for Uni­ver­sal Basic Income, a way of ensur­ing that all of us have the means to sur­vive while we use our new­ly acquired free time to con­scious­ly shape the world the machines have learned to main­tain for us.

What may have seemed like a Utopi­an idea then (though it almost became pol­i­cy under Nixon), may become a neces­si­ty as AI changes the world, writes MIT, “at break­neck speed.”

via Big Think/MIT Tech­nol­o­gy Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Alan Watts’s 1960s Pre­dic­tion That Automa­tion Will Neces­si­tate a Uni­ver­sal Basic Income

Bertrand Rus­sell & Buck­min­ster Fuller on Why We Should Work Less, and Live & Learn More

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Pro­gram Tries to Write a Bea­t­les Song: Lis­ten to “Daddy’s Car”

Hayao Miyaza­ki Tells Video Game Mak­ers What He Thinks of Their Char­ac­ters Made with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: “I’m Utter­ly Dis­gust­ed. This Is an Insult to Life Itself”

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: A Free Online Course from MIT

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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