May 9, 2015


The Next Technology Revolution Will Drive Abundance And Income Disparity (Vinod Khosla, 5/07/15, Forbes)

There have been and will continue to be multiple big technology revolutions, but the most impactful on human society may be the one that finally builds systems with judgment and decision-making capability more sophisticated and nuanced than trained human judgment. Machine learning, sometimes called big data or artificial intelligence, is making rapid progress in complex decision-making (for instance: driving a car was thought to be too difficult for computers even five years ago). Without speculating on what is probable, it is at least possible that such systems may even be better at creativity, emotion and empathy than human beings (for instance: writing the best music, love story or creative fiction). At the very least these systems may be able to handle much more data to which we now have access and use it to make better judgments than humans with their supposed instinct, gut, holistic and integrative decision capability. Although any one software program may not do everything a human brain can do, specialized programs will likely make decisions and predictions in their domain better than most trained humans. Many, if not most, domains will be well covered by such programs. Many problems in our work environments aren't ones the human brain evolved to solve for in the African savannah. To achieve these goals, a machine learning system does not need to exactly replicate the brain or even use brain like techniques.

While the future is promising and this technology revolution may result in dramatically increasing productivity and abundance, the process of getting there raises all sorts of questions about the changing nature of work and the likely increase in income disparity. With less need for human labor and judgment, labor will be devalued relative to capital and even more so relative to ideas and machine learning technology. In an era of abundance and increasing income disparity, we may need a version of capitalism that is focused on more than just efficient production and also places greater prioritization on the less desirable side effects of capitalism.

...a process that will be made easier precisely because of the vast increases in wealth and the disparities in who it goes to under the current system.  If democracy could effectively redistribute wealth when we were all taxed to do so, it won't be dificult to do so when only a fraction of the electorate needs to be taxed to do so.

Posted by at May 9, 2015 10:05 AM

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