Automation of the people

Nov 15, 2019

What do the 19th century English Luddites, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford all have in common ? Answer, they were all part of far reaching changes in society that went beyond merely the introduction of a new technology or manufacturing method. When added to now common concepts such as in built obsolescence or product management, as we like to call it, the impact of technology on society has always had far reaching implications. Throw in armed conflicts and technology it could be argued has served to shift ours perspectives on gender, race, religion and economics. In fact has there been any other greater influence? So what to make now of artificial intelligence? One answer is, not a lot. Just like in ship building displacement matters but for more than one reason. Back in 2017 we pointed you to an AI article in The Economist ‘Automation and anxiety’ that flagged the increasing concern we have about AI but set this against similar past innovations such as the ATM or cars over horses. More recently as the debate has matured so the focus has shifted to how we respond as a society through policy and regulation to ensure the displacement we mentioned doesn’t sweep us over board. Some writers such as Carl Benedikt Frey writing for MIT Sloan put forward that it was the response of government that led directly to the rise of the UK as a leader in the previous industrial revolution and now just as Mark Zuckerburg is actively asking for regulation in the digital economy so the logic goes it isn’t AI that presents the problem its how we should respond that matters.

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