Technology needs more humanity | Tech news

As the casualties of “advancement” pile up, the confident march of AI and other novel technologies to society requires a serious assessment.

Why is cryptocurrency still a thing?

There is a paranoid fear that a group of ghostly technocrats at the Federal Reserve – inexplicable, incomprehensible – may one day become normal. money Go crash! There is the success of young brothers who have made a fortune persuading other young brothers to embrace it – attracting a generation with dim job prospects to try anyway. get rich from their bedroom.

That might be all, though? You can expect some urgency to find purpose for a technology that consumes more energy Australianot yet able to develop real-world functionality beyond paying ransoms, drugs, or children erotic. But once you get past the more fool theory, you’re left with only one catchphrase: It’s high tech.

I am talking about a problem that goes beyond cryptocurrency: lack of purpose, no reason for society to continue to create many “new things, new things”, despite the costs, fueled by a well-known narrative. created in Silicon Valley features technology, any technology, that is bound to advance human progress.

According to the valley’s narrative, it was best to let the Luddites interrogate the process. But the confident march of new technologies into society requires a critical assessment. Because the damage to progress is piling up, it raises the question of why we are deploying such technologies in the first place.

The social consequences of social media is chilling not only because of its proven ability to distort the national conversation, spreading misinformation too quickly for the truth. As many observers have also complained, they are replacing online social connections with real ones, building alternative realities that are ready to be manipulated in the pursuit of profit.

Deployed by business managers to automate processes and take on increasingly complex decisions, robots have built a better representation. But reputation is based on untested assumptions: First, that automation necessarily improves a company’s bottom line; second, the fruits of this progress will be widely shared throughout society.

According to the story, companies that become more productive expand production and hire more workers. Automation will also create new tasks in the business for humans to perform. Rising incomes coupled with productivity will create demand for new products and services, further boosting employment. And the additional competition for labor will increase wages.

But while these proposals make sense, at first glance, they don’t really match up with what we’re seeing in the real world, where job growth is largely taking place in cheap labor supply spots like McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. whoever Who argues that the benefits of automation being widely shared have not been noticed.

A new direction of economic research on the consequences of technological change has found that the automation trend of technology can largely explain the increase in wage inequality, polarizing the labor market. among low-educated workers who have been displaced from their jobs and seen their wages drop. and those – mostly undergraduate or graduate students – are not.

Technology calls for new tasks, opens new doors jobbut they also favor the highly educated and less devoted to workers with only the basic skills for which machines have taken over their tasks.

Research by economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and Utrecht University shows that the economy created a lot of middle-wage manufacturing and office jobs between 1940 and 1980. But Many of them are now gone. The jobs created since then were either high-paying professional positions or low-wage service contracts.

And just you wait for Artificial intelligence to make its progress. What? Google CEO Sundar Pichai called “the most important thing mankind has ever studied” opens up entirely new fields of human activity to what the coin in the valley likes to call “disruption”. The workers displaced by the next version of ChatGPT will play their familiar role in the progress narrative: the incident on the road.

The problem with progress isn’t just the way its fruits are shared. The very benefits are coming into question. You may remember Elon Musk’s admission that “people are undervalued,” a rare admission of error after Tesla’s attempt to automate assembly lines resulted in delays and glitches. A common mistake is this: Technology’s contributions to productivity are often hard to spot.

As Daron Acemoglu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology observes, a lot of automation gives only a moderate boost to the bottom line. Think automated or touchscreen customer service at McDonald’s. Managers do automate anyway for two reasons: It’s “advancement” and people are doing it, and the costs imposed on workers being displaced by new technologies, for the company, is irrelevant. So even if the profits are very small, they are still worth it.

Innovation, by some measures, is happening at breakneck speed. The year 2020 WE The patent office has issued more than 350,000 patents for inventions, nearly six times more than in 1980, at the dawn of the digital revolution. But total factor productivity during this period only increased by an average of 0.7% per year, less than a third of the growth rate from the 1940s to the 1970s.

While Cupertino and Mountain View tech optimists tend to attribute the dismal numbers to miscalculation — data processing machines miss all the good stuff — more serious academics are springing up. The idea that all the great IT won’t necessarily bring a revolution in productivity.

Innovation is undeniably a wonderful thing. Thanks to it, we survive the diseases that often kill us. We can access and process unimaginable amounts of information. Without new technologies, we will never meet the challenge of decarbonizing our planet economy and contain climate change.

But as Acemoglu and his MIT colleague Simon Johnson point out in their forthcoming book, Power and Progress (coming out in May), modern evidence and the long story of industrial development Human technology has confirmed “yes Nothing automatically about new technologies that bring widespread prosperity. Whether they do or not is an economic, social and political choice.”

They argue that Silicon Valley should not feel entitled to make the call. With the venture capital industry pursuing opportunities for AI to take on a growing range of tasks and decisions – playing Go, practicing law, analyzing markets – Acemoglu and Johnson fear technological progress Technology is pushing society on a dark path.

What if instead of increasing productivity, AI simply redistributes power and prosperity from ordinary people to those in control of the data? What if it impoverished billions of people in the developing world – people whose cheap workers can’t compete with cheaper automatons? What if it reinforces biases based on skin color? What if it destroys democratic institutions?

“There is growing evidence,” they wrote, “that all of these concerns are well-founded.”

We can avoid Skynet. Technology has not necessarily led us to some kind of oligarchy. The past 150 years have been filled with technological breakthroughs that empower workers and lift every boat.

Think of the mouse and the graphics computer interface, or Excel, or email. These inventions have expanded human capabilities, rather than extinguished them. Arguably the most consequential technological revolution in our history, the transformation of the agrarian economy into an industrial powerhouse, has made the working class far better off. .

We have great tech tools at our disposal. The question is whether we implement them in a way that complements people or dismiss them as superfluous in the journey towards progress.

It may not be clear how to deploy technology in a more human-centered way; build tools that amplify what humanity can do. However, one thing is clear. It will require wresting an unchallenged decision in the direction of innovation from a tech oligarch profiting from human displacement and social alienation.

We can then build an unoptimized social media platform to spread misinformation, capture viewer attention, and maximize ad revenue. We may not be able to replace American corporate customer service reps with machines that don’t offer such things. And we can’t accept the rise of climate change just so we can find a new way to pay for the illegal stuff.

More from other writers at Bloomberg Opinion: AI has come to save art from itself: Leonid Bershidsky ChatGPT is not a magic bullet for Microsoft’s Bing: Parmy Olson Why the future of technology is difficult such predictions: Faye Flam This columnist does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Eduardo Porter is Bloomberg Opinion columnist on Latin America, economic policy and US immigration. He is the author of ‘America’s Poison: How Racial Hostility Has Destroyed Our Promise’ and ‘The Price of Everything: Finding Method in the Madness of Things to Pay’ price.’


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