The technology could enormously improve lives, the economist says but only if the tech titans that switch it are accurately settled. What we have now is totally inadequate
It must be hard for Joseph Stiglitz to remain an optimist in the face of the frightful future he horror may be coming. The Nobel laureate and former premier economist at the World Bank has thought carefully about how neural networks will affect our lives. On the back of the technology, we could improve ourselves a richer civilization and perhaps experience a shorter running week, he says. But the committee is countless pitfalls to avoid on the way. The ones Stiglitz has in mind are just frivolous. He worries about hamfisted moves that lead to routine exploitation in our daily lives, that leave culture more partitioned than ever and warn the basic principles of democracy.
Artificial intelligence and robotisation have the potential to increase increased productivity of the economy and, in principle, that could constitute everybody better off, he says. But only if they are well managed.
On 11 September, the Columbia University professor will be in London to deliver the most recent lecture in the Royal Societys You and AI succession. Stiglitz will talk about the future of design, zones where predictions have been frequent, irreconcilable and disturbing. Last month, the Bank of Englands premier economist, Andy Haldane, to point out that large swathes of Britains workforce face unemployment as AI and other engineerings automate more responsibilities. He had less to say about the new positions AI may create. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers in July argued that AI may create as many occupations as it destroys perhaps even more. As with the Industrial Revolution, the sorrow would come not from a lack of cultivate, but the difficulty in switching from one responsibility to another.
A distinction Stiglitz impels is between AI that supplants workers and AI that helps people to do their jobs better. It already facilitates physicians to labour more efficiently. At Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, for example, cancer consultants waste less experience than they used to planning radiotherapy for men with prostate cancer, because an AI system announced InnerEye automatically marks up the gland on the patients scans. The doctors process patients faster, the three men start treatment sooner and the radiotherapy is extradited with more precision.