Canada: Impact Of Artificial Intelligence On Society – March 5, 2018

Last Updated: March 8 2018
Article by Donald B. Johnston

In my last blog post on this subject, I posed a bunch of questions:

All of which brings me to the whole point of this mad rant: how will artificial intelligence affect ordinary people? What will be its impact on our everyday lives from the social and ethical points of view? What will we think of ourselves when we can't tell the difference between a phone call with a machine and a phone call from Madge in North Sydney, Nova Scotia? Will we swoon over computer-generated art the way we rave about Matisse and Dégas? Will we hear the beauty and grandeur in computer-generated music the way we hear it in Beethoven? Even if it's every bit as good, will we have the human magnanimity to regard it that way? And what about how artificial intelligence will impact how we make a living??

Much smarter guys than I am – like Dr. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Jaan Tallinn – have warned that artificial intelligence places humanity at risk. Or maybe that should be "greater risk" because our existing technology, which isn't smart at all, is already putting us at risk as well as helping us. Admittedly, they are not experts on artificial intelligence, but I'd rather be scared to death by a billionaire than by anybody else.

To respond to the conundrum of artificial intelligence, we can look to the past and see how revolutionary technology has affected society. We might then be able to extrapolate our findings from then to now.

McKinsey & Company has written a great briefing note on how modern technologies affect the workaday world. It's called "Technology, jobs, and the future of work." I recommend it to you.

McKinsey points out that technology is already supplanting low-skill jobs, resulting in the stagnation of household incomes in other jobs. On one hand, AI-driven technology is increasing the productivity of factories. On the face of it, that's a good thing. But, undeniably, it is bound to leave some people, at least in the near future, without jobs.

It must be argued that technology has always had this effect on society. Steam-driven cotton gins replaced the labour of many people. Eventually, the people who used to make cotton fabric got into other lines of work, got better educated (or their kids did) and ultimately enjoyed the benefits of cheaper cotton goods of better quality. Same thing with steam tractors and horse-drawn ploughs. It's the upheaval that happens between the innovation and "eventually enjoying the benefits of innovation" that leads to the social problem of what to do about workers whose jobs were eaten alive by machines and other advanced technology.

We just don't see that many milkmen with their horse-drawn vans, elevator operators, linotype operators, chimney sweeps, bowling alley pinsetters, steam locomotive engineers, railway signalmen, clock-winders, ice delivery men, switchboard operators, blacksmiths, lamplighters and chamber-pot wranglers. Ah – and let's not forget town criers, who were the Twitter-feeds of their day.

But the people who would have had those jobs, but for the technology that replaced them or their parents, are now doing something else. And that something else is probably cleaner, better paying and more interesting.

There's a great book called Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers and Strategies by Nick Bostrom, in which the author talks about the impact of machines that are smarter than we are. He argues that the "intelligence explosion" caused by superintelligent machines would be catastrophic for human beings as a matter of ordinary course. He urges the creation of rules and ethics around machine learning and artificial intelligence for the purpose of limiting the potential for social damage.

Stephen Hawking says that it is a mistake – possibly the worst mistake in history – to imagine that highly-intelligent machines are merely science fiction. He even avers that artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.

We already know the effects that can occur when people become dependent on machines. Mental arithmetic is gone because of calculators. No one knows how to drive a manual transmission car. No one can read a map because of GPS. There are many examples of how ordinary technology can affect people. Imagine the effect of artificial intelligence on how we think.

McKinsey points out that in the developed world there are already almost 300 million people who are not in the work force. Two-thirds of those have basically given up the prospect of working. Of those in the entire world who do work, it is estimated that anywhere from 30 to 45 percent are grossly underutilized. Over 75 million youth in the world are officially recognized as unemployed. Over 655 million fewer women than men are economically active. (Gender equality in economic activity alone would increase global GDP by $12 trillion by the year 2025.)

Worse, available skills do not rise to the levels needed by business. Business finds it easier and cheaper to acquire technology that can "learn" the skills, and perform better, than to accept unprepared human resources who are ultimately more expensive and less productive. It's horrific when a business wants to hire somebody and simply can't find anyone with the requisite skills.

It is even the case that professional people can find their jobs threatened by computers that don't get tired, don't make mistakes, don't miss a comma or a number or a spelling error. Why would you get a law student to pore over a thousand documents at x dollars per hour when a computer can do the same job more cheaply and accurately? Do you hire fewer law students? Or do you re-think your business and get them doing other things – things that computers cannot yet do – that are more aligned with their wonderful potential and agile minds?

There's no clarity on that question yet, as you all probably know. But we have to ask it and answer it, or a computer will provide an answer that we may not like.

That's a lot of untapped human potential. And it has led to a lot of unhappiness, depression, anomie and disconnection from society. And yet, the technology that replaced all those people has helped people in general to live better lives. It's a timing issue: immediate pain for future gain.

So the question is whether intelligent tools and equipment can be deployed in such a manner as to allow people more opportunities to do more interesting and beneficial work, with perhaps a little more "down time" – or whether our robotic friends will swallow jobs and leave a huge part of society with nothing to do?

These questions are getting tough. I'll try to shine a light on them in my next post.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Donald B. Johnston
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions