AI and Increasing Inequality: Smart Software Becomes the New Dividing Line

August 16, 2023

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Will AI Be an Economic Blessing or Curse?” engages is prognosticative “We will be sorry” analysis. Yep, I learned about this idea in Dr. Francis Chivers’ class about Epistemology at Duquesne University. Wow! Exciting. The idea is that knowing is phenomenological. Today’s manifestation of this mental process is in the “fake data” and “alternative facts” approach to knowledge.

8 8 cruising ai highway

An AI engineer cruising the AI highway. This branch of the road does not permit boondocking or begging. MidJourney disappointed me again. Sigh.

Nevertheless, the article makes a point I find quite interesting; specifically, the author invites me to think about the life of a peasant in the Middle Ages. There were some technological breakthroughs despite the Dark Ages and the charmingly named Black Death. Even though plows improved and water wheels were rediscovered, peasants were born into a social system. The basic idea was that the poor could watch rich people riding through fields and sometimes a hovel in pursuit of fun, someone who did not meet meet their quota of wool, or a toothsome morsel. You will have to identify a suitable substitute for the morsel token.

The write up points out (incorrectly in my opinion):

“AI has got a lot of potential – but potential to go either way,” argues Simon Johnson, professor of global economics and management at MIT Sloan School of Management. “We are at a fork in the road.”

My view is that the AI smart software speedboat is roiling the data lakes. Once those puppies hit 70 mph on the water, the casual swimmers or ill prepared people living in houses on stilts will be disrupted.

The write up continues:

Backers of AI predict a productivity leap that will generate wealth and improve living standards. Consultancy McKinsey in June estimated it could add between $14 trillion and $22 trillion of value annually – that upper figure being roughly the current size of the U.S economy.

On the bright side, the write up states:

An OECD survey of some 5,300 workers published in July suggested that AI could benefit job satisfaction, health and wages but was also seen posing risks around privacy, reinforcing workplace biases and pushing people to overwork.
“The question is: will AI exacerbate existing inequalities or could it actually help us get back to something much fairer?” said Johnson.

My view is not populated with an abundance of happy faces. Why? Here are my observations:

  1. Those with knowledge about AI will benefit
  2. Those with money will benefit
  3. Those in the right place at the right time and good luck as a sidekick will benefit
  4. Those not in Groups one, two, and three will be faced with the modern equivalent of laboring as a peasant in the fields of the Loire Valley.

The idea that technology democratizes is not in line with my experience. Sure, most people can use an automatic teller machine and a mobile phone functioning as a credit card. Those who can use, however, are not likely to find themselves wallowing in the big bucks of the firms or bureaucrats who are in the AI money rushes.

Income inequality is one visible facet of a new data flyway. Some get chauffeured; others drift through it. Many stand and marvel at rushing flows of money. Some hold signs with messages like “Work needed” or “Homeless. Please, help.”

The fork in the road? Too late. The AI Flyway has been selected. From my vantage point, one benefit will be that those who can drive have some new paths to explore. For many, maybe orders of magnitude more people, the AI Byway opens new areas for those who cannot afford a place to live.

The write up assumes the fork to the AI Flyway has not been taken. It has, and it is not particularly scenic when viewed from a speeding start up gliding on neural networks.

Stephen E Arnold, August 16, 2023


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta