For humans to survive the automation revolution, we need to double down on our humanity.
The argument goes like this: Artificial intelligence is getting better and better at automating things that humans do. Not just repetitive tasks like assembling parts in a factory, but complex tasks that have traditionally been the domain of humans. Pretty soon, these machine agents will take all the jobs. Humans need not apply.
We’ve seen this movie play out before—and after a gritty fight, we won. The advent of agriculture put hunters and gathers out of business. Then industrial farming put farmers out of business. But each time technology ate one type of jobs, new ones appeared to take their place. Human ingenuity did its thing, we adapted, and we survived to live (and work) another century.
But, say the naysayers, “this time is different.” We’re not talking about dumb machines programmed to do very specific tasks—we’re talking about AIs that learn and get better by watching us and parsing our data for patterns. Globally networked AIs that learn and cooperate with each other will be very powerful, according to author and futurist Yuval Harari. “In order to replace most humans,” he says, “the AI won’t have to do very spectacular things.”
I do not buy into that version of the future, and here are some reasons why.