Aristotle for all: what if artificial intelligence was the luck of the less qualified?
A few days ago, I attended a conference on artificial intelligence as part of the Peter Drucker Forum. The participants in the roundtable were unanimous in predicting a sort of work apocalypse, joining in this the opinion of most experts. Basically the argument is the following: AI will make a very large number of professions obsolete, with a major impact in the very short term. Participants added that AI would certainly make it possible to create many more, as has been the case during all waves of automation (looms, ATMs, etc.) but with delay, and that there would therefore be a time lag. In any case, the least qualified workers would be, according to them, the main victims of this wave of innovation which is pulling work “upwards”.
Well, I don’t believe it. I think on the contrary that AI is the luck of the less qualified.
In 1990, Steve Jobs declared that the computer was a bicycle for the mind. By that he meant that man had invented a tool allowing him to do much more than he could do naturally, and in a much more energy efficient way than birds. He concluded: The main difference between humans and animals is that humans make tools to do more with less energy. Artificial intelligence is the same thing. It will allow humans to do more, with less energy.
Two years ago I went to train in Russia. I get in a taxi booked by the customer. I do not speak Russian, and the driver quickly made me understand that he spoke neither French nor Russian. But he had my name, and knew where to take me. But after a few minutes, he started speaking in Russian. Taken aback I wondered what was wrong with him. What was my surprise to hear a few seconds after a charming female voice indicate to me that on the right stood such a museum built by Peter the Great, on the left the monument dedicated to veterans of the Second World War, etc. In fact the driver was talking on his phone equipped with Google Translate. The application recognized his word, translated it, and output it in English. I still haven’t quite got over it. Thanks to Google Translate, this Russian driver “speaks” English. He has a bicycle for his mind which allows him to transport clients whose language he does not speak. He can do more, with less energy, despite his obvious lack of qualification. Without Google Translate, he would have had to settle for local passengers, who pay less. Clearly, his lack of qualification was compensated by the AI.
To all the prophets of fear who strike us with what they think is the obvious with force curves and striking slogans, namely that the AI will downgrade the less qualified, we can therefore oppose the following idea according to which, on the contrary, like this Russian taxi driver, she will allow the less qualified to stay in the race. They will have their encyclopedia at hand at all times, their personal Aristotle in their pocket. Knowledge will become a commodity, and will no longer be the preserve of a small elite. In other words, AI is deeply subversive. Because as Chris Anderson said in his book The new industrial revolution, ” Revolutionary change occurs when industries democratize, when they are wrested from the sole domain of corporations, governments and institutions and handed over to ordinary people. “
Instead of being a big subtraction, AI may instead be the ultimate big addition that will end the inequality resulting from training.
What if AI was the luck of the ordinary people?
See my previous article Artificial Intelligence: Your next competitor is a Centaur; Are you ready?. See my talk on this subject at Lab Postal 2017 with Béatrice Rousset: https://youtu.be/sbT7hvhkFo4?t=3m47s
Philippe Silberzahn is professor of entrepreneurship, strategy and innovation at EMLYON Business School and associate researcher at thePolytechnic School (CRG), where he received his doctorate. His work focuses on how organizations manage situations of radical uncertainty and complexity, from an entrepreneurial perspective with the study of the creation of new markets and new products, and from a managerial perspective with the study management of disruptions, strategic surprises (black swans) and complex problems (“wicked problems”) by large organizations.