7 December 2015
Technological experts estimate that, “many jobs currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by robots or digital agents by 2025” (Smith and Anderson). Many innovative people embrace such predictions, but others are concerned by the extent to which humans are relying on computers. While machines likely won’t take over the world Terminator style, it’s no secret that they are already taking over a significant part of our lives. From the spell check on our computers and phones to the machines that have replaced factory workers, technology is everywhere. The argument about “How far is too far?” when it comes to technology isn’t just about moral opinions; technology, specifically artificial intelligence, has already had and will continue to have an impact on the national and even global economies.
On the most basic level, technology impacts consumer demand, which in turn influences which companies make more profit in the long run. Whether it’s a cell phone or kitchen appliance, technology is a means of product differentiation. If Samsung had continued to make flip-phones in the age of the iPhone the company would have gone out of business. Similarly, “if Google figures out a better way to determine what you want to find when you search with them, they're going to earn a higher profit” (Fagella). Artificial intelligence attracts consumers which is beneficial for companies who can keep up with the demand for technology but devastating for those who can’t.
Just over 30 years ago, a mobile phone was unheard of for the common man. Nowadays, most people carry a cell phone with them everywhere they go. Technology has turned items that were historically reserved for the elite, such as televisions, computers, and even refrigerators, into common household items. This is because advancements in technology shift the supply curve upward and allow producers to make more of a good for a lower price. In regards to artificial intelligence and machines that think and perform tasks similarly to a human being, “if a company can come up with robots that build things cheaper than people can, it will gain market share” (Fagella). If more goods are being produced, more money is being exchanged which in turn allows the economy to grow.
The impact that machines have on consumers and producers has an overall positive trend, but what happens when we zoom out and look at the big picture. Many are concerned that “algorithms are poised to obliterate white-collar knowledge-work in the 21st century, just as automation displaced blue-collar manufacturing work in the 20th” (“Machines for Thinking”). While this is a valid concern, people like Vint Cerf, vice president for Google, assure us that "historically, technology has created more jobs than it destroys and there is no reason to think otherwise” (Smith and Anderson). The statistics gathered from the chart below support this opinion. While hard labor jobs in manufacturing may decrease, workers are being displaced because there will always be a need for human ingenuity to be the brain behind the robot.
The study of the impact of technology, specifically artificial intelligence, on the economy poses a frightening realization. Even if we as a country were to decide that technology is becoming too prominent in our economy, “the international marketplace makes it hard for individual governments to slow down their high tech sector because they'll fall behind in technology to other countries” (Fagella). In a way, this is a sort of prisoner’s dilemma because there is no way for us to stop the technological advancement of other countries, even if it eventually leads to a World War III. Our economy cannot survive on the global scale if we don’t continue to advance, so we have little choice but to find new ways to supplement human intelligence. While the social and moral impacts of technology still remain debatable, it is clear that technology is one of the driving forces in our economy and, at least from an economic standpoint, artificial intelligence only enhances that.
Bessen, James. "Toil and Technology -- Finance & Development, March 2015." Imf.org. International Monetary Fund, Mar. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
Fagella, Daniel. "Economics And The Future of Artificial Intelligence."Ieet.org. Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, 6 Dec. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
"Machines for Thinking." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 03 Oct. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.
Smith, Aaron, and Janna Anderson. "AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs."Pewinternet.org. Pew Research Center, 06 Aug. 2014. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.