In a recent interview with Fox Business, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said he believes artificial intelligence taking over jobs is a good thing. His main point is that artificial intelligence will allow people to have much more time, and said to Business Insider, “if we can actually produce twice as much as we make today with less labor, the purpose of humanity is not just to sit behind a counter and sell things, you know?”
While Gates has a valid point, much more analysis is needed in regards to artificial intelligence and human labor. There are many legitimate drawbacks outside of the fact they might become sentient and destroy humanity. Ultimately, the lower and middle classes will lose jobs and suffer.
First and foremost, the benefit and utility of artificial intelligence depends on what it is used for. In some ways, Gates is correct. There are many forms of artificial intelligence which can be designed to save people time. For example, the ability to listen to and answer your emails in the car could save many workers valuable time in their mornings.
The problem is when artificial intelligence is made specifically to do jobs, which already belong to human workers. Amazon is working on technology for automated cashiers, which would leave many cashiers out of a job.
The people who work as cashiers are generally in working classes, so while the people at the top of the company such as Jeff Bezos will benefit, many former cashiers will find themselves without jobs.
Gates may not have had poor intentions with his statement. He admitted the government would have to rework social security programs to help displaced workers. However, he believed artificial intelligence could be truly beneficial to many.
Gates also makes an extremely important point, average workers are extremely overworked and have no free time to pursue hobbies or interests, or to simply relax. His focus is in improving the efficiency of the work environment.
Unfortunately, we cannot do so, until we fix the problems of the workforce in general, and Gates is aware of this. He said his focus is helping the world’s poorest people.
It is also true more widespread use of artificial intelligence is absolutely inevitable, especially if it will raise profits for specific companies. There is no way to stop eventual technological advancement. There is always objection to new technological developments at first. However, over time, they generally become cheaper and more accessible, just like we observed with the smartphone. After a short time, the economy will be forced to adjust to the introduction of this new artificial intelligence, to a certain extent.
In an ideal world, the use of artificial intelligence to do jobs is fascinating and certainly would save a lot of time as long as it did not hurt other people in the workforce.
Before artificial intelligence can start taking these jobs, the government needs to ensure its citizens are employed with acceptable living wages. Pursuing technological advancement is definitely important but the priority should always lie with helping the wellbeing of humanity.