Work is important. It contributes to a person’s sense of being. If you ask any adult who they are, chances are they will answer your question by stating their profession. But, would the answer accurate? Probably! What about in the artificially intelligent future?
Prelude to AI Future
The modern economy is run by workers, who fall between the extreme categories of the low-skilled-and-dispassionate and high-skilled-and-highly-passionate.
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In the first case, the worker neither possesses a skill that is valuable. Nor, do they have the passion to acquire a skill that can make a living without being exploited. These workers are most prone to exploitation as their mere survival requires toil and continuous labor. Their sense of identity is their profession because of the amount of time they spend as workers.
Then, we have the second type of workers. The highly-skilled-and-highly-passionate. These workers are not mere workers. They are technicians or professionals – experts. These workers exchange their abundant passion for fruitful gains from the economic system. Although, they can afford to spend less time at work, their identity is their profession because of the value they derive from it.
Often, these experts continue to spend time pursuing their passion because it gives them a sense of purpose. Or, because they simply lack a sense of contentment. If the saying, “a person, who knows how much is enough, will always have enough” is true, then the corollary must also be. A person, who does not know how much is enough will never have enough.
Between the two extremes, we have again two kinds of workers. The first type of “betweeners” are the ones, who are either low-skilled or dispassionate. These workers work for survival and with the hope that they can one day become skilled enough to work “some” for a living.
If their passion gets them to this stage, its probable that they might set their sights further along the horizon. After all, human wants know no bounds and the search for the next possible achievement is fuel for the sense of purpose.
The second type of betweeners is made of the perfect type of workers. They achieve mastery through passion and liberate themselves from their profession as soon as much they gain enough for sustenance. These workers are few and far between. They work only partially, because their high skills allow them to sustain themselves without contributing a lot of their time to the economy.
These can liberate themselves from economic hardships to pursue a sense of purpose in their own being. They have successfully served the economy and now seek only what is – life with or without the economy.
What does artificial intelligence have to offer to alter the situation for the first three types of workers that I have described?
Forced liberation from work to find meaning in pretentious activity.
The economy that I have thus far described is one that is based on scarcity of goods and services. It relies on the inversely related market forces of supply and demand for the regulation of costs. Hence, a skill that has demand and is scarce will be more valuable than a skill that has demand but is freely available, or a skill that simply has no demand.
Uberization of Work
What artificial intelligence has the potential to do is Uberize work in the future. The taxi company is one of the largest in the world but doesn’t own any cars. Companies like Uber and AirBnB have not based their services not on scarcity of resources, rather on abundance.
These companies have realized there is an excess of resources (workers, cars, houses) that can be utilized to decentralize the economy.
Anyone with a car can now drive for Uber at their own terms and as per their own liking to receive fair remuneration. Similarly, anyone with a room to spare can let it out for a day or a month – for as long as they please – in return for a decent income. This is the gig economy.
The gig economy works on perfect utilization of resources. It relies less on finance and more on sharing for maximum of resources for common benefit.
One can now share an Uber with other passengers to ride at cheaper costs. The driver receives pretty much the same amount of money he would in a private ride. And, even Uber gains an equitable amount from each of their rides for powering this decentralized and transparent service.
This is only a transition phase though.
General Artificial Intelligence
What Uberization and the gig economy will eventually lead to is an economy that runs on General Artificial Intelligence – a social system of artificial intelligence that would have learned from human activities in the gig economy to become entirely self-reliant.
So, Uber will replace human drivers with self-automated cars that will pick up and drop customers in a perfectly synchronized manner. Even traffic can be expected to be perfectly free-flowing due to the efficiency in its regulation by general artificial intelligence.
Future of Work
Elon Musk and other tech leaders believe, it will only take around seven years for us to reach the general artificial intelligence stage in the tech evolution. Once we reach this stage, most of the activities we engage in will be redundant. They will be less meaningful and more pretentious. And, they will offer little to our sense of being as humans.