Artificial Intelligence Revolution

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You say you want a revolution? Ready or not, a revolution is coming. It’s coming for you and me. It’s coming soon. You might want to try to hold onto your job. And your dignity. But good luck with that.

“The real battles that lie ahead will lack the apocalyptic drama of Hollywood blockbusters, but they will disrupt the structure of our economic and political systems all the same. Looming before us in the coming decades is an AI-driven crisis of jobs, inequality and meaning. The new technology will wipe out a huge portion of work as we’ve known it, dramatically widening the wealth gap and posing a challenge to the human dignity of us all.”

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence. If you want to be cool and appear in the know, you can begin dropping the AI acronym into your conversation or writing whenever possible.

The above quote is from a long piece written by Kai-Fu Lee in the Sept. 15-16 weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal. (I’m not in the habit of reading the WSJ, because I own no stocks and no bonds. But I sometimes pick it up if Publix is sold out of the NYT. Maybe I should read the WSJ more often? But I digress.) The article is entitled “The Human Promise Of The AI Revolution.” (See, I didn’t make up the “revolution” part.) Here’s another chilling quote from the WSJ article:

“This unprecedented disruption requires no new scientific breakthrough in AI, just the application of existing technology to new problems. It will hit many white-collar professionals just as hard as it hits blue-collar factory workers.”

Gosh, I’ve been focusing my worry on global warming, climate change, and the rising sea level. (And Donald Trump, of course. But I promise not to digress in that direction.) Now I have to worry about artificial intelligence as well? No problem. I have a nearly unlimited capacity for Worry, with a capital “W.”

Global Warming and Artificial Intelligence

After reading the aforementioned article, I can see similarities between Global Warming and Artificial Intelligence. Both sound like science fiction with hints of apocalypse.

Both promise unprecedented change with astonishing but uncertain consequences. Many people hope and believe that humans will be able to exert some degree of control over both global warming and artificial intelligence. (This is the “It might not be too late” school of optimism.)

Most folks have heard about global warming, but hope its most dangerous consequences are way off in the future. Many folks have not heard about artificial intelligence. Yet. But  if they have, they assume it is way off in the future.

Many people are aware that global warming has probably been happening for some time. Many acknowledge that we are already experiencing the first effects of global warming and climate change, manifesting as annoying shifts in weather patterns and apparent increase in the size and frequency of catastrophic storms.

However, it hasn’t dawned on many folks that artificial intelligence, like global warming, is already happening. Both global warming and artificial intelligence are HERE, NOW.

A Glacier And A Locomotive

I think I can get away with one more quote from the Kai-Fu Lee article in the WSJ. After all, I’m going to give him free publicity for his forthcoming book.

“The AI revolution will be of the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution — but probably larger and definitely faster. Where the steam engine only took over physical labor, AI can perform both intellectual and physical labor. And where the Industrial Revolution took centuries to spread beyond Europe and the U.S., AI applications are already being adopted simultaneously all across the world.”

Larger and faster than the Industrial Revolution!!!

Here’s my interpretation: Global warming is moving — not as slowly as a glacier, perhaps — but slowly, in terms of human years.

Global warming can make big changes in the lifetime of one human.

Artificial Intelligence, meanwhile, is moving more like a speeding locomotive — more like dog years than human years.

Artificial intelligence can make big changes in the lifetime of one dog.

And what about that Kai-Fu Lee book? It is “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order.” There’s a title to strike fear into the heart. The book is scheduled to be published next week, Sept. 25, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. So says the WSJ.

And who is this guy Kai-Fu Lee? Never heard of him. He appears to have serious credentials in the brave new world of AI. You could Google him.

— John Hayden

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“You Say You Want a Revolution?”

A picture is worth a million words. There seems to be a difference of opinion throughout Europe (and in America, too) concerning money, and debt. Also, some mild disagreement about who should pay the price and make the sacrifices, and who should get bailed out.

Schoolgirls link hands to protect a police van during student protests in London. -- Peter Marshall photo.

Baroque in Hackney reports that a younger generation — “The Kids” — is seizing responsibility because their elders are cowed by the powers that be. Ms. B’s post is enlightening. I urge you to read it.

How far will the wealthy elites in Europe and America push the children of the former middle-class? If you want to know which way the wind is blowing, please read this article by Jonathan Jones from The Guardian. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“For this picture tells a lot, very quickly. It tells us the menace of violence is real as anger grows among groups directly afflicted by the coalition’s cuts. Yet it also reveals that most protesters are peaceful, idealistic, with a sense of history and of the gravity of their actions. Most of all it tells us how amazingly young many of them are.

Future historians may well write that the Conservative-Liberal coalition was doomed the day schoolchildren took to the streets to assert their right to a university education.”

People are protesting in the streets in France (Social Security); England (college tuition); Ireland (budget cuts); and the European Union is getting ready to bail out the biggest banks in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and maybe Italy. The U.S. already bailed out its bankers, and people protested with their votes.

So this is the way it’s going to be? The rich get richer; the middle-class get screwed?

“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don’t you know that you can count me out
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We’d all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We’re doing what we can
But when you want money
for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
Don’t you know it’s gonna be all right
all right, all right”

— The Beatles

I’ve written about the consequences of what I would call “capitalism off the hook” before. I didn’t think the reaction in the streets and at the voting places would be so swift or serious.

With apologies to Buffalo Springfield, I don’t think it’s paranoia. I think, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Mr. Jones of The Guardian describes what’s happening as follows:

“We can look at this picture and see a mass movement rapidly evolving as a generation goes beyond merely taking to the streets and starts finding a larger meaning in its rebellion, and imposing order in new ways. What these girls are showing us is that this is not just about rage. It is a defiant stand for youth and hope.”

Do you think President Barack Obama and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke understand what’s happening?

“The Kids” and their “cowed” parents understand that they’re being screwed. Government leaders understand the consequences of tax cuts for the rich and budget cuts for the poor.

The wealthy elites understand that they’re screwing the poor, and what’s left of the middle-class. The wealthy always believe they have a right to exploit the poor.

So it looks like it’s the Powerful elites against “The Kids.” You can call it “class warfare,” if you want. I’m afraid that the Powerful will make precious few concessions to “The Kids,” at least not without an ugly struggle. How it will play out, no one knows.

— John Hayden