When I was in grade school during the 1960’s I would occasionally see and read articles about our collective future which would postulate that automation would eliminate the need for traditional employment. As an adolescent this appealed to me because I didn’t much like to work and couldn’t imagine any downside to endless days of leisure. Interestingly when they did get around to it most of these articles postulated that we would all be spending our days in self-actualized activities like mountain climbing, fishing, painting, and writing in the same way my adolescent mind did. These articles were usually equally vague on where we would all get the money to do all of these things, let alone eat. Again the notion was that somehow the need for money would go away.
Well here we are in 2011 and I believe we are starting to see the first steps into this brave new world and so far it isn’t all that pretty. With unemployment stubbornly in the 9% range by the traditional measure, and much higher if you look at the those who have just opted out, you might get the idea that this transition ain’t going to be all that easy. A lot of people are being hurt by this.
You see I have already made the assumption that what is happening here and around the world is that we have begun to see the direct impacts of the technologies foretold in those 1960’s futurist articles and things they couldn’t yet imagine. A few scholarly works are starting to surface concerning this phenomenon and for myself at least, coming from an IT background, it is pretty obvious that the information revolution is having a profound effect on work, employment and the general economy.
On a political note we see this being playing out in the streets already with two simple world views dominating so far. View number one is peculiarly American that “Big Government” is responsible and if we would just get rid of it, things would go back to normal. The second is the more traditional “Big Business/Money” is responsible view. The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street both make good TV news but actually listening to both sides leaves one wondering will their prescriptions to solve the problem or make it worse.
This is what this series of papers will attempt to answer. We will review relevant scholarly papers, popular articles and books and provide our own analysis as to what is actually happening with regard to the impact of IT in general and AI specifically on the economy and society as a whole. We will look at various plans proposed by myself and others with regard to their impact on the economy through the lens of the IT revolution.
This blog has taken a bit to get off the ground but here goes.
I have 3 primary areas of scientific interest Physics/Astronomy, Economics and Intelligence/Cognition. Following my Physics jones is a lost cause at my age but the other two have some possible interesting avenues of research that I can follow.
The impact of IT general and AI in particular are now moving from the periphery of the economy to the center and the impacts are starting to be substantial. Since the “Information Rules” as Hal Varian called them are different from what we are normally accustomed to it is going to take some thought and analysis to insure that we end up in a good place instead of some science fiction nightmare world. This program is what we are about here.
Today I’m launching a blog to talk about work I’m doing in the area of artificial intelligence. Stay tuned.