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Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

THE IMPACT OF ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE


THE POWER OF ROBOTICS In 1818 Mary Shelleys story Frankenstein was published, describing the story of a scientist who is destroyed by his own invention [1]. This book is often regarded as the first science fiction novel, and since its arrival authors and artists have often speculated about the destruction of humanity by its own creations. As technology progresses this fear has grown to encompass computers and the idea of an apocalyptic future caused by losing control of our inventions. This fear is central in many science fiction films such as Terminator and I, Robot, as well as such stories as I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, which tells the tale of a sentient supercomputer which has destroyed most of mankind and is now torturing the last remaining five humans [2]. It is only natural to be afraid of change, but what makes the field of artificial intelligence such a target for these apocalyptic notions is not only its rapid progress in recent years but its extreme power. For instance, Spanish researchers have created a robot that poses as a 14-yearold girl in online chatrooms and can take on one of seven different personalities depending on the responses it receives during the conversation. The bot is also capable of remembering what has been said in its past conversations, and to whom [3]. This development shows that we have an incredible ability to emulate human thoughts and emotions, and the progress is both exciting and nerve-wracking. However, the prospect of a singularity such as that described by John von Neumann still seems to be a distant future if it is possible at all, and the technology we are producing raises more pressing concerns. In a world where we can create machines that carry out our jobs more efficiently and cost-effectively than we ever could, what is to stop us from losing our livelihood? Already, machines have begun working alongside humans in factory lines [4],
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Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

and performing medical diagnoses [5]. We should continue research in the field of artificial intelligence with caution in order to not upset the job market unnecessarily. Reckless automation poses significant problems for the fate of the average worker, but despite these potential risks the technology would have great rewards and would make our lives safer and easier.

A HISTORY OF FEAR The problem of what automation could do to our society is not a new one. In 1973 researchers from Lockheed Research Laboratory and Stanford Research Institute came together to perform a study about the impact artificial intelligence would have on society. They determined that the continued use of artificial intelligence would not only lead to the displacement of human workers as robots take over the more mundane or repetitive tasks, but also to the construction of a more elite class with an immense amount of power. This elite class will arise because of the automation of such major industries as health care, education, and government. The study implies that the continued use of robotics may involve a major shift in how we view humanity, as tasks we formerly thought could only be done by humans become available to robots. People who have worked all their lives doing one job may suddenly find themselves to become unnecessary as their job is filled by a computer. If this phenomenon becomes widespread, it will render the majority of low-wage workers unemployable. Researchers also suggest that we may experience a decreased need for human contact as robots begin to think creatively and simulate human emotion [13]. This raises a question of whether robots who can feel should have the same ethical rights as human beings and how we would ensure that they have a moral code that would prevent the loss of human life. As we continue research in this field we will need to develop programs that can tell a robot what is right

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

and wrong and algorithms to describe these moral codes. However, this concern is less urgent than that of the effects on our economy, since progress in making technology capable of human emotion (even simulated emotion) is slow and it is unlikely that such an achievement will be accomplished in the near future. In 1984 computer scientist Nils Nilsson argued that economists should be more concerned about artificial intelligence because the jobs created by such an industry will be jobs that can also be filled by robots, and therefore no more human employment will be available. However, he also points out that just because automation is possible does not make it probable [14]. There are many factors that decide whether or not a certain job should be automated. Employees are unwilling to work alongside robots that might someday replace them, and are often resentful towards robots which are intended to minimize their labor. They have worked hard at their job and have developed a sense of pride in their work, and automation takes that away from them [15]. This reluctance may be able to slow the progress of automation, thereby giving us time to adjust to the situation and create new jobs to replace those that will be lost.

AUTOMATION AND THE WORKING CLASS Today, Eric Horvitz, a Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft, uses a computer avatar as an office assistant. The avatar can greet visitors, schedule meetings, and even estimate how long Horvitz will take to finish a phone call based on past data. Another of Microsofts projects has a computer working as a medical assistant, performing preliminary diagnoses on patients [5]. These are impressive breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, and specifically language recognition software. However, there are still limitations to the software. For instance, such commonsense human skills as taking turns in a conversation, joking, or irony, are lost on the

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

machine, and this lack of true understanding can lead to mistakes in the work these AIs are charged with. Despite these limits it is clear that artificial intelligence has advanced, as predicted, to an almost human level of intelligence. Although this is a great success in the field, it also poses a serious risk to humans themselves. A human worker has many drawbacks to an employer they have to be able to take sick days and vacations and must be given health benefits. A computer needs none of these things, and can work much faster than a human ever could. Researcher Jason Borenstein writes that a robotic employee would neither show up late to work nor have personality conflicts with its co-workers [6]. There is a danger, therefore that humans will soon lose their jobs to machines. Employers will take the safer, more cost-effective, and more efficient route and hire robots to replace their complex human employees. Already, robots have joined the work force in factory lines, electric companies, and shipping companies. Foxconn, a worldwide electronics company, announced in 2011 that it would install 1 million robots in the next three years to perform the more repetitive work currently done by its human workers [7]. A Washington Post article discussed how sales of industrial robots have risen over 38% since 2010 [8], and a similar article appeared in Forbes stating that today America needs 5 million less workers to produce a greater value of goods and services than it did in December 2007 when the recession began. [9] The workforce is changing rapidly as we invent new machines more and more capable of completing tasks we once thought could only be accomplished by humans. Workers who have developed a certain skill set may be in danger of losing their only means of employment if automation continues at this rate. Computer scientist Frederick Kile argues that robotics in the workplace has already gone too far. Automation has become commonplace, and the drop in employment has been masked for

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

some time by rapid economic growth. A recent slowing of that growth has led to long-term underemployment and unemployment. Kile predicts that this trend will continue to the detriment of our economy. He predicts that the masses of idle people produced by the rise in technology could lead to strife, rebellion, and wars and suggests that the only way we can survive such a future is to redefine our humanity beyond our current purpose [10]. If, indeed, the average working class is rendered unemployable by more efficient and cost-effective machines, they will lose a part of who they are, since what we do is often a large part of who we are.

THE RISE OF THE ELITE Martin Ford paints a bleak picture of what this technology could do to our economy in his book The Lights in the Tunnel. He explains how the automation of jobs would drive people out of the workforce, and create a more elite upper class, stronger than ever before. However, after some time even this elite class would suffer. As more and more people lost their jobs, the companies owned and run by the upper class would have fewer and fewer people to sell their products to and thus would lose money, resulting in cutting their employment down even more, and creating a dangerous cycle that would end with a darkening of the mass market into a state of irreparable destruction. Ford admits that the simulation he created may be inaccurate in some ways but he draws a conclusive parallel to slavery. Slavery, like automation, provided cheap labor in the Southern part of America for many years. It is clear that this was a sustainable practice as Southern plantations did not collapse and the owners of such plantations were often extremely wealthy. However, Ford argues that this is because the Southern economy relied on exporting its goods. If we look at the worlds market, there is no chance of export, and so we are trapped much as the South was trapped when Lincoln blockaded them during the Civil War [11].

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

Computer scientist Bill Joy agrees that continued research into robotics and artificial intelligence will severely affect the world as we know it. He argues that the rise of technology will give the elite class greater power and that the rest of us, the average citizens, will be a useless burden as the need for human employees is gradually eliminated. The immense power placed in the hands of a few select individuals will reduce our status to that of animals, controlled by our masters for whatever purposes they desire [12]. Although this outlook at least provides some hope that our economy will survive automation, it still seems to predict an extreme shift in society. Right now, mankind has a tendency to define itself by the work we do and often the money we make doing it. What would happen if we took that purpose away? Would the elite class that Joy describes take care of our needs? Would they simply let us die off, therefore reducing their burden and accumulating all the wealth for themselves? It is impossible to say how humane such a society would be, but it is clear that humans without a purpose and without a means of elevating themselves in society would be restless and unhappy. The distribution of wealth would be unfair at best and disastrous at worst. Joy writes that the problem is that we are dealing with technology in a way we have never had to before: A bomb is blown up only once - but one bot can become many, and quickly get out of control [12]. It seems that while automating a few jobs may only marginally affect the job market, the mass automation of jobs that currently belong to humans would result in, if not the destruction of our economy, at least a strong shift in the way the economy works. This shift, while it might benefit the upper class and those in charge of major corporations, would have a severe negative impact on the average working class citizens who make up the majority of our population. Kile notes that unemployment in Germany was a major cause of World War II [10], which gives a dark picture of what could happen should we continue replacing humans in the workplace.

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

A MORE POSITIVE OUTLOOK Nevertheless, there is some hope for the future. Economists tend to believe that an increase in productivity creates jobs rather than destroys them, and that the decreased labor caused by automation of jobs will only result in the creation of more skill-oriented jobs, such as jobs for programmers and engineers who can produce robots, and technicians who can fix them [14]. In a 2011 article in IEEE Magazine, Jeanne Dietsche wrote that we are on the verge of an era of unprecedented productivity improvement and economic growth. She explains that employment stagnation will not occur during this era because the skill set of the working class will develop to match the needs of the job market. Many of the jobs lost to robots are those involving redundant tasks or information gathering. The people in these jobs may have limited skills outside of their current employment, but Dietsche argues that because the training to become involved in computer science is becoming more readily available, these people will be able to gain the skills necessary to get new jobs in the changing market [7]. In addition, artificial intelligence often replaces jobs which are too dangerous for humans, such as the robot developed by a student at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which digs up mines and explodes them. The robot can function without electricity, allowing this sort of work to be done in more remote areas, which is useful for technology that will mostly be used in war zones [17]. In 2012 Toshiba produced a robot that could withstand high levels of radiation in order to help clean up the Fukushima nuclear power plant [18]. Exposing humans to such radiation is a huge risk and can result in long lasting health problems. These types of machines are a great advancement for our society and pose little to no risk to human jobs. Researcher Margaret Boden argues that artificial intelligence could also be a useful tool to prevent bias in

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

the workplace. Unbiased technology could be used in classrooms to present a more equal learning environment to all children as well as in such areas as welfare advising, where clients could lose a lot from an employee biased against their race, gender, or sexuality. Boden writes that artificial intelligence could also lead to greater freedom for society and a greater incentive to concentrate on what is most fully human [19]. As our need to do manual labor decreases we will be able to reconnect with the world around us and remember what is truly important.

CONCLUSION Perhaps artificial intelligence does have a place in our society after all. This technology could make our lives safer and easier as machines can complete jobs too dangerous for human hands. There is likely to be a shift in our economy and our job market as robots take over some of the jobs done by humans, but this shift is not necessarily a bad one as long as we are prepared for it. Automation inevitably leads to the loss of some jobs, but workers may be able to gain the skills necessary to obtain new jobs, as long as we ensure that this process is slow and that the resources workers will need are readily available. The study of artificial intelligence has yielded extremely powerful technology, and continued research into the field could save lives, and is well worth the risk it poses. However, we must remember to provide a place in society for ourselves as well. If we arent careful we could see Fords calculated destruction of the mass market occur on a huge scale, destroying our economy or turning us into nothing more than the equivalent of cattle to the upper classes. If we pay close attention to the effect that improvements in the field are having on the job market and the lower class we can ensure that more jobs are created by technology than destroyed, thus ensuring continued growth of our economy and the well-being of the average worker.

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

BIBLIOGRAPHY
[1] S. Lawson, A Chronology of the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Chronology & Resource Site, February 11, 1998, [Online]. Available: http://www.rc.umd.edu/reference/chronologies/mschronology/chrono.html [Accessed: July 2013]. [2] I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream Study Guide & Plot Synopsis, BookRags, 2013, [Online]. Available: http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-mouthmustscream/ [Accessed: July 2013]. [3] 'Virtual Lolita' aims to trap chatroom paedophiles, BBC News, July 11, 2013, [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23268893 [Accessed: July 2013]. [4] Robotic co-worker Baxter joins factory line, BBC News, September 18, 2012, [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19637175 [Accessed: July 2013]. [5] S. Lohr and J. Markoff, Computers Learn to Listen, and Some Talk Back, The New York Times, June 24, 2010, [Online]. Available: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/25/science/25voice.html [Accessed: July 2013]. [6] J. Borenstein, Robots and the changing workforce, Open Forum, September 2009, [Online]. [Accessed: July 2013]. [7] J. Dietsch, Merry Christmas to the Economy, from the Robotics and Automation Community, IEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine, December 2011, [Online]. [Accessed: July 2013]. [8] C. Kang, New robots in the workplace: Job creators or job terminators? Washington Post, March 6, 2013, [Online]. Available: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/new-robots-in-the-workplace-jobcreators-or-job-terminators/2013/03/06/a80b8f34-746c-11e2-8f843e4b513b1a13_story.html [Accessed: July 2013]. [9] Is Your Job Robot-Proof? Forbes, June 7, 2012, [Online]. Available: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/07/is-your-job-robot-proof/ [Accessed: July 2013]. [10] F. Kile, Artificial intelligence and society: a furtive transformation, Springer, February 12, 2012, [Online]. [Accessed: July 2013]. [11] M. Ford, The Lights in the Tunnel, United States : Acculant Publishing, 2009. [12] B. Joy, Why the Future Doesnt Need Us, Wired, 2004, [Online]. Available: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html [Accessed: July 2013]

Rebecca MacKenzie Advanced Writing in the Technical Professions

Due: July 24, 2013 Professor Rachel Lewis

[13] O. Firschein, M. Fischler, L. Coles, and J. Tenenbaum, Forecasting and Assessing the Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Society, International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, 1973, [Online]. Available: http://www.ijcai.org/Past%20Proceedings/IJCAI73/PDF/013.pdf [Accessed: July 2013]. [14] N. Nilsson, Artificial Intelligence, Employment and Income, The AI Magazine, Summer 1984, [Online]. Available: http://ai.stanford.edu/~nilsson/OnlinePubsNils/General%20Essays/AIMag05-02-002.pdf [Accessed: July 2013]. [15] L. Cohen, Surrendering to the robot army: why we resist automation in drug discovery and development, FutureScience, 2012, [Online]. Available: http://www.futurescience.com/doi/full/10.4155/bio.12.75 [Accessed: July 2013]. [16] M. Williams, Robots Take Dangerous Jobs, PCWorld, April 3, 2003, [Online]. Available: http://www.pcworld.com/article/110127/article.html [Accessed: July 2013]. [17] Toshiba launches radiation-proof robot to help clean up Fukushima, RT, November 21, 2012, [Online]. Available: http://rt.com/news/fukushima-radiation-proof-robot-292/ [Accessed: July 2013]. [18] M. Boden, The Age of Intelligent Machines, Kurzweil, April 25, 2001, [Online]. Available: http://www.kurzweilai.net/the-age-of-intelligent-machines-the-social-impactof-artificial-intelligence [Accessed: July 2013].

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