Why isn’t Artificial Intelligence being deployed for the good of all?


Artificial Intelligence is here and will change everything.  The immense and transformative opportunities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are by now well understood. AI can increase the quality of everything we do at the same time as reducing costs; a godsend for both Public and Private Sector. Every aspect of society can improve if we make the right choices, but will we?


We need to plan for far-reaching disruption of the job market. It is recognised that there will, over time, be widespread replacement of jobs by AI. Some believe this disruption scenario will be mitigated by creation of new types of jobs, largely based on what happened in the industrial revolution and with computers. Others (the writer included) believe AI is of an entirely different order, because any new jobs will be capable of being performed by AI too i.e. we will reach a tipping point where there is a net loss of jobs. If that happens work may become a privilege!


Reducing the working week while maintaining income will be possible.  Whatever the probability of each, we need to plan for both scenarios. In both cases we need to ensure that the financial benefits of AI are used for the financial and general wellbeing of all. This might include reducing the working week gradually to 30 hours, 20 hours or even less, while still maintaining or increasing our standard of living and ensuring that everyone has sufficient income to have a good home and a good life. In the ’disruption’ scenario this reduction would be by choice for our wellbeing; in the ‘net job loss’ scenario it would be an inevitable consequence anyway.


Warning. We’ve actually been here before! Back in the 1960s, as young people, we were led to believe that computerisation would mean that we would all eventually be working fewer hours for the same income. That hasn’t been the case and our working lives are as long and more pressurised, because there was no action to make that situation materialise. This time, with AI, it is essential that action is taken, if we are to harness AI for the good of all.


We need a Government commitment that AI will be deployed for the good of all. Action needs to start now, with a Government ‘contract with the nation’ that, as part of the levelling-up agenda, actions will be put in place to ensure that everyone will benefit financially and benefit in wellbeing from the deployment of AI. This is not just a question of fairness but there will be enormous downside social consequences if we don’t because of the impact on jobs.


We need to start funding the AI society right now. We need to adapt our taxation system to tax at a low level any ‘job replacing’ technology, so that we generate the funds to address the consequences, whether job disruption or the full tipping point. Even Bill Gates, in 2017, suggested the need for a levy on profits in some sort of Robot Tax. We would suggest, as a starter for discussion, an ‘AI Productivity Contribution’ which incentivises AI deployment to start with but, above a certain threshold, contributes a significant proportion of the on-going financial productivity benefit to a National Fund.


We could miss the boat. All this will only happen if Government focus on the long-term and don’t kick the can down the road. The next 20 years will be dramatic and put the effects of the pandemic in the shade. The opportunity is there to deploy AI for the good of all, but we must grasp it now.



This article is drawn from the document Artificial Intelligence - Managing the Future