Looking Forward and Looking Around

The ideas laid out in this recent series of blogs are an early attempt to grapple with the massive disruptions on the horizon of our AI future. We looked at technical fixes that seek to smooth the transition to an AI economy: retraining workers, reducing work hours, and redistributing income through a universal basic income (UBI).

While all of these technical fixes have a role to play, I believe something more is needed. I envision the private sector creatively fostering human-machine symbiosis, a new wave of impact investing funding human-centric service jobs, and the government filling the gaps with a social investment stipend that rewards care, service, and education. Taken together, these would constitute a realignment of our economy and a rewriting of our social contract to reward socially productive activities.

These are not an exhaustive list or authoritative judgment on the ways in which we can adapt to widespread automation. But I do hope they provide at least a framework and a set of values to guide us in that process. Much of that framework comes from my understanding of artificial intelligence and the global technology industry.

The values guiding these recommendations, however, are rooted in something far more intimate: the experience of my cancer diagnosis and the personal transformation inspired by people like my wife, Master Hsing Yun, and so many others who selflessly shared their love and wisdom with me.

Had I never undergone that terrifying but ultimately enlightening experience, I may never have woken up to the centrality of love in the human experience. Instead of seeking ways to foster a more loving and compassionate world, I would likely view the looming crises through the same lens as those who are deep into AI today—as a simple resource-allocation problem to be dealt with in the most efficient way possible, likely through a UBI. It is only after going through my own personal trial by fire that I now see the hollowness of that approach.

My experience with cancer also taught me to appreciate the wisdom that hides in the humble actions of people everywhere. After so many years as an “Ironman” of professional achievement, I needed to be knocked off my pedestal and face my own mortality before I appreciated what many so-called less successful people brought to the table.

I believe we will soon witness the same process on an international scale. The AI superpowers of the United States and China may be the countries with the expertise to build these technologies, but the paths to true human flourishing in the AI age will emerge from people in all walks of life and from all corners of the world.

As we look forward into the future, we must also take the time to look around.

Posted by Dr. Kai-Fu Lee on Jun 06, 2019 in All Posts What is AI

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