Log in

Top Stories        News         Sports

Capitalism in the age of AI

Write a comment

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Jim Opionin By Jim Powers
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you’ve followed my columns for any time, my position on the rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) should be clear to you. I believe strong AI, or general AI if you prefer, is an existential threat to humanity. One often mentioned threat is that AI becomes much more intelligent than we are, but its goals are not aligned with those of humanity.

I often hear the argument that my view of the future is inherently jaundiced, that every time I look at a flower, I don’t see its present beauty, but its inevitable wilting and decay. Instead of looking at the incredible good that AI offers for human kind, I see only the negative. There’s some truth in that accusation, but where AI is concerned, it isn’t completely accurate.

With an intelligence that will someday soon far exceed our own, AI holds the hope of finding cures for diseases that have so far eluded our best efforts to defeat. These super intelligences will also be able to tackle climate change, make distribution chains more efficient, be helpful at resolving conflicts between countries and make our work much more efficient, causing huge increases in efficiency. So, where’s the existential threat come in? Or capitalism, for that matter?

While all these good things should accrue to the good of all of humanity, they will not, because these Ais are being developed by corporations like Microsoft, Google, Meta and Elon Musk, inside of a political and economic system that has already moved almost all of the world’s financial wealth into the hands of a small percentage of the population. These companies have proven that their bottom line is more important than the good of mankind. To trust that they will have a sudden interest in the advancement of humanity is at best naïve.

AI will make possible tremendous gains in productivity, with fewer people needed to do any job. Eventually, AI will replace anyone who sits at a desk. Even the CEO of the company you work for will likely be replaced by an AI (there exist companies now with AI CEOs). Beyond that, even physical labor will be replaced by humanoid robots with AI brains (they are in advanced development now). And then, what of the people?

Capitalism is an economic system. It’s not a system created by God. It’s not foundational. It is, however, one where wealth moves inevitably in one direction.

Over the long term, unless reined in by government regulation and control, it results in exactly the situation we are in now, with most of the wealth of the economy shifted to the top. And those few controls that existed back in the 20th Century have gradually been relaxed through lobbyists for corporations throwing unlimited amounts of money at the government that should be restraining them. In just one example, the top tax rate on the richest in the country has decreased from 90 percent to, effectively for many of the wealthiest and corporations, zero.

Capitalism doesn’t work when the marginal cost of labor for a company approaches zero. And these companies are not spending billions of dollars on AI to benefit mankind, but to benefit their bottom line.

I wish I could turn off my skepticism, but our current economic and political environment doesn’t inspire confidence. If there is a solution, it depends on our recognition that humanity is more important than profit, that technological advances should lift everyone, not just a wealthy few. There are ways to guarantee a future for humans, such as establishing a Universal Basic Income for all, but we need a government interested in doing so, which we don’t currently have.

There really is no option, here. Capitalism will dissapear as an economic system as a direct result of AI. You can't have capital without labor, and AI will ultimately eliminate labor. Rather than an economic system, we will then have a humanitarian disaster. 

We desperately need to stop investing our efforts into making the wrong pronoun illegal, fighting over completely trivial things, when a real existential threat awaits us.

And God only knows
God makes his plan
The information's unavailable
To the mortal man
We're workin' our jobs
Collect our pay
Believe we're gliding down the highway
When in fact we're slip slidin' away       
Paul Simon

Say something here...
symbols left.
You are a guest
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.