By: Ryan Leonard

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a buzz-phrase of sorts that refers to at least two classifications of computational technology.[1]  First, there is weak AI, which refers to the a computer system (broadly defined) with the ability to perform a specific task, better (more accurately, more efficiently, etc., depending on the task) than its human counterparts.[2]  For example, in 1997, a program was developed that could defeat the world’s best chess players in a game of chess.[3]  In 2016, Tesla Motor Company unveiled cars capable of driving more safely than their human counterparts.[4]

 

The second broad category of AI is strong AI, which refers to a not-yet-existent technology that is capable of performing all tasks better than its human counterparts.[5]  Because of the rate of advancement in computational technology,[6] strong AI is likely to be developed unless humanity is destroyed, or severely incapacitated, first.[7]

 

Strong AI has the potential to have a snowball effect because, logically, it would be able to build more sophisticated AI than humans were able to build in the first place.[8]  The AI that was built by AI would itself be able to produce a superior version of itself, ad infinitum.  Putting aside spooky hypotheses that such advancement would leave humanity at the mercy of its robot overlords, there is still the issue of how the US economy, or any economy for that matter, would operate.

 

Weak AI alone is already, at least for the time being, a threat to certain low-skill jobs.[9]  Truck drivers, toll booth operators, among others, can, and to some extent, already have seen their jobs taken over by machines.[10]  Strong AI poses a threat not just to low-skill repetitive jobs, but to highly complex jobs as well.[11]  Therefore, in theory, strong AI would be able to produce engineers, surgeons, and programmers with skills far superior to any human that has every lived.  In a world in which computer-powered machines can do everything better than humans, there would not be a single job that a human would be better suited to perform than a computer (by definition).  And yet, with machines doing the farming, the building, the transporting, the diagnosing, etc., there would be no shortage of goods or services.  In a world of perfect abundance, but 100% unemployment, Congress will need to change all currently existing laws relating to social programs and supplant them with new legislation establishing a universal basic income (UBI).

 

UBI, if implemented, would be a program that would send a specified amount of money to all citizens and permanent residents in regular intervals.[12]  In contemporary politics, UBI, as recently popularized by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, would set that specified amount at $1,000 per month for every adult.[13]  In a world with strong AI, Congress would need to consider an amount far higher, as the amount would need to be an income that could be entirely relied upon by everyone.  Among many serious scientists, the emergence of strong AI is considered a viable possibility, if not a certainty.[14]  Congress should begin considering the appropriate legal framework for keeping a functioning economy in place.

 

 

 

 

[1] See Kathleen Walch, Rethinking Weak vs. Strong AI, Forbes (Oct. 4, 2019, 6:30 AM), https://www.forbes.com/sites/cognitiveworld/2019/10/04/rethinking-weak-vs-strong-ai/#740863696da3.

[2] See id.

[3] See Samuel Gibbs, AlphaZero AI Beats Champion Chess Program After Teaching Itself in Four Hours, Guardian (Dec. 7, 2017, 7:41 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/dec/07/alphazero-google-deepmind-ai-beats-champion-program-teaching-itself-to-play-four-hours.

[4] See Marco della Cava, Tesla Announces Fully Self-Driving Cars, USA Today (Oct. 19, 2016, 8:05 PM), https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2016/10/19/tesla-announces-fully-self-driving-fleet/92430638/.

[5] See Walch, supra note 1.

[6] See David Chandler, How to Predict the Progress of Technology, MIT (March 6, 2013), http://news.mit.edu/2013/how-to-predict-the-progress-of-technology-0306.

[7] See Sam Harris, Can We Avoid Digital Apocalypse?, Sam Harris (Jan. 16, 2015), https://samharris.org/can-we-avoid-a-digital-apocalypse/.

[8] See Kelsey Piper, Why Elon Musk Fears Artificial Intelligence, Vox (Nov. 2, 2018, 12:10 PM), https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2018/11/2/18053418/elon-musk-artificial-intelligence-google-deepmind-openai.

[9] See Gwen Moran, Your Job Will Be Automated – Here’s How to Figure Out When AI Could Take Over, Fortune (Aug. 1, 2019, 6:00 AM), https://fortune.com/2019/08/01/predicting-job-automation-ai/.

[10] See id.

[11] See Harris, supra note 7.

[12] See Abby Vesoulis, This Presidential Candidate Wants to Give Every Adult $1,000 a Month, Time (Feb. 13, 2019), https://time.com/5528621/andrew-yang-universal-basic-income/.

[13] See id.

[14] See Piper, supra note 7.

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