A Grim Picture of an AI Future

May 09, 2019

Scanning the economic horizon, artificial intelligence promises to produce wealth on a scale never before seen in human history—something that should be a cause for celebration.

But if left to its own devices, AI will also produce a global distribution of wealth that is not just more unequal but hopelessly so. AI-poor countries will find themselves unable to get a grip on the ladder of economic development, relegated to permanent subservient status. AI-rich countries will amass great wealth but also witness the widespread monopolization of the economy and a bifurcated labor market divided into economic castes.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

The AI Inequality Machine

May 07, 2019

The same push toward polarization playing out across the global economy will also exacerbate inequality within the AI superpowers, the U.S. and China.

AI’s natural affinity for monopolies will bring winner-take-all economics to dozens more industries, and the technology’s skill biases will generate a bifurcated job market that squeezes out the middle class. The “great decoupling” of productivity and wages has already created a tear between the 1 percent and the 99 percent. Left to its own devices, artificial intelligence, I worry, will take this tear and rip it wide open.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

The AI Superpowers versus All the Rest

May 02, 2019

Whatever gaps exist between China and the United States, those differences will pale in comparison between these two AI superpowers and the rest of the world.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs love to describe their products as “democratizing access,” “connecting people,” and, of course, “making the world a better place.” That vision of technology as a cure-all for global inequality has always been something of a wistful mirage, but in the age of AI it could turn into something far more dangerous. If left unchecked, AI will dramatically exacerbate inequality on both international and domestic levels. It will drive a wedge between the AI superpowers and all the rest of the world, and may divide society along class lines that mimic the dystopian science fiction of Hao Jingfang.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee

The Ascent of the Algorithms and Rise of the Robots

Apr 30, 2019

This hard reality about algorithms and robots will have profound effects on the sequence of AI-induced job losses.

The last century of physical automation largely hurt blue-collar workers, but the coming decades of intelligent automation will hit white-collar workers first. The truth is that these workers have far more to fear from the algorithms that exist today than the robots that still need to be invented.

By Dr. Kai-Fu Lee