I’ve been toying with the economic consequences of the impending autonomous vehicle revolution for a while now and this recent IKEA thought exercise got me thinking about it again. 🔁
For now, a brain dump in bullet point format. Maybe I’ll expand on/gussy up these thoughts in the future. 🤷
- Drie-thrus will die and be reborn. Fast food restaurants will struggle as their convenience factor will be eroded once hands do not need to be on steering wheels. Connected and networked cars will allow for safely ordering ahead and cars will become dining cars with expansive, outsourced kitchens. Any restaurant that desires could be a drivethru or grab-and-go establishment. A Ruth’s Chris at every interchange sliding surf and turf specials through windows to be eaten on the go. 🥩
- Horizon lines are decluttered as billboards disappear. Why pay to mass advertise on a floating wall when you can deliver targeted messaging inside your dream customers vehicle on a heads up, digital dashboard product with dynamic creative tailored on the fly using input from onboard sensors and information and the targets data portfolio from the web. Or a subscription allows riders to opt out of all advertising and cruise in peace as the admire the landscape. 🏞️
- The roadside motel/hotel/travelodge industry dwindles as cars assume the duty of sleeper car, transporting their charge as they sleep. Why stop and extend travel time if you can careen towards your destination while unconscious? 🛌
- Roadside assistance and emergency response becomes a rare occurrence one vehicles form a networked hive mind that eradicates traffic and accidents and vehicles can predict, plan, and schedule all necessary maintenance. 🚨
Src: MIT Tech Review
A lot of focus is placed on the US-China AI space race (guilty), but the nature of AI could make for a surprise victor. Or at least a leveling of the playing field. 🚜
There is a risk that the United States, like many leading powers in the past, could take an excessively cautious approach to the adoption of AI capabilities because it currently feels secure in its conventional military superiority.
I noticed an interesting note in the piece that arms regulations are, by and large, aren’t placed on useful defense technologies that are easily spread. Like tanks and jets (“easily spread” is relative in this case). Compared to nukes, which are heavily regulated but hard to manufacture anyway. 🏭
AI is not subject to the same manufacturing difficulties and provides far more useful. It is also difficult to draw a clear line between commercial and military uses. All of this creates a scenario that will be tough to regulate with nearly all governments incentivized to take a shot. Interesting times ahead. 🔮
Src: Foreign Policy
A while back I wrote about how I didn’t think robots would become the new consumers in capitalism. Turns out I’m not the only one. 👬
This piece scratches my economics itch in a lot of ways, but I think the heart of it is the fact that we typically believe the economy/market/capitalism operates like a rational machine and not an organism reacting to the wants and desires of a collection of irrational flesh bags. 👥
But the threat is not real for the simple reason that the efficiency of production is not the problem that economy tries to solve. The actual problem is the use of scarce means to produce want satisfaction. Both means and ends are valued subjectively. Robots do not value.
This, once again, gets to the core of my AI belief system, that we shouldn’t try to recreate human brains in silicon or assume that AGI or superintelligence will mimic humanity’s actions and desires. It just seems like egoism disguised as science. ⚗️
I want to include two quotes pertaining to value that I really liked in this piece. I think they are often forgotten or misunderstood. 💱
The natural resource it the same, but the economic resource – the value of it – was born with the inventions. Indeed, oil became useful in engines, because those engines satisfy consumers’ wants. The value in oil is not its molecular structure, but how it is being used to satisfy wants.
A good, sold in a market, is not its physical appearance, but the service it provides consumers in their attempts to satisfy wants. In other words, a good provides use value. And value is always in the eyes of the user. The value of any means derives from its contribution to a valuable economic good.
For further reading that provides another angle on why I don’t think robots and AIs will just slip into the existing capitalism and perpetuate it check out this piece by Umair Haque.
Src: Mises Institute
There is a lot of focus on the China vs. USA space race happening in AI right now (at least in my world there is, I’m very interested in the topic). Most of it revolves around spending, governmental support, talent, etc. But maybe the most important aspect is what the implications of either country winning would be, if there truly can be only one winner in this field. 🏎️
China’s social scoring system, still in its infancy, is terrifying. Of course that is an opinion from a different way of live and cultural experience. But still, it has dystopian sci-fi future written all over it. 😈
A network of 220 million cameras outfitted with facial rec, body scanning, and geo tracking. And this insane info net will be paired with every citizen’s digital footprint. Everything is compiled to create a social credit score of sorts that is updated in real time and determines how easily you can interact with society and live your life. Piss the government off and become an outcast with no options. Dear China, Phillip K Dick called, he’d like his dystopia back. 📚
It’s no guarantee that this form of digital dictatorship will be exported on a mass scale (you know it’ll be exported at some scale) if China were to win the race, but it’s a chilling possibility. A lot of ink is spilled talking about the potential for a robot uprising and AI taking over, but the misuse of AI by human actors is far more relevant and just as fraught. We’ve been our own biggest enemy for centuries, why would that suddenly change now? 🤔
Src: ABC News Australia
If you’re interested in the societal and economic implications of AI, this article is worth a read. A few points that stuck out to me: 👇
- AI can be hugely beneficial, but right now it’s not trending in that direction
- Tech companies shouldn’t be in charge of regulating themselves, which means decision makers need to educate themselves
- People are starting to value privacy more and become more wary of surveillance and data collection
- AI will “take” jobs, but there will still be plenty of uniquely humans roles (health and elderly care, education, etc.) Guess we’ll find out how much we truly value that work.
Src: The Guardian
A recent issue of the Inside AI newsletter included the prediction that eventually we will sell things to AIs. The inflection point is said to be when population growth levels off and capitalism foresees its downfall and doom. 📉
First, I think modern capitalism’s growth requirement is a bug, not a feature. Focusing on growth and appeasing shareholders can lead to a lot of bad decisions. I think we are better served by rethinking this aspect of capitalism, whether that means tweaking what we mean by that term or creating some kind of post-capitalism. But this has nothing to do with AI, I don’t think. 🤔
Back on track, I don’t see the true trigger to create a bot economy. Why would AIs suddenly want to buy things? Why will AIs compete in the same exact way people and corporations do? This idea seems to be to be an anthropomorphizaton of AI by projecting capitalistic human characteristics in to them. 📽
Once AIs are competing with each other for work – by reputation, by differentiation, etc, they will need ways to distinguish themselves. In other words, they will have the same issues humans have – they want to appear better/different than others.
I just don’t understand how we get from our current version of AI to algorithms competing with each other and doing so via an open market. Also, I’m pretty sure toasters don’t aspire to buy things. 🤷♂️
Src: Inside AI
First off, I love Janelle’s blog AI Weirdness. Do yourself a favor and check it out. It’s hilarious. 😂
Second, I agree with her belief that the future of AI is a bunch of specialized systems, not mechanical humans. Or, toasters not C3PO. 👾
We don’t (currently) have any models that generalize well. To my knowledge, no one is close on this either. Even transfer learning destroys the previous ability. 💥
Could this all change? Of course, predicting the future of tech is essentially sci-fi. We’ve shown a pretty bad ability to truly predict what is possible or what the future will look like. But I think planning for a future of AI toasters is a much better bet than waiting for iRobot to walk through your door and make everything magic. 🔮
This article lays out a vision of the future I both think is likely and look forward too. Well designed, powerful AI voice assistants could open up a new realm of ambient computing reducing our reliance on screens and making tech more human-centric. We’ve evolved to be social creatures accustomed to interacting via spoken words, not by tapping on a magic box. 🦕👤📱
Also really sad to see screens usurping the world of LEGO via AR. It’s all about the bricks, man! 🏰
Src: New York Times
I’m very interested in how the AI boom will unfold on the international stage. It has all the makings of the next space race or arms race and more countries throw their hat in the ring every day. 🚀
This post from Ian Hogarth is a great overview of what is “at stake”. I use quotes for that because it seems more ominous than I think it should. But there are certainly some potentially ominous outcomes depending on who wins the race. Or who losses… 🥇🥈🥉
The big 3 sectors ready to be shake up:
- Economy 💵
- Military 🔫
- Science & Technology 🔬
What is required for countries to compete?
- Compute 🖥
- Talent 🧠
- Related tech 💽
- Stable/supportive politics ⚖️
It’s also interesting to think about how AI and its impacts will vary by country due to each country’s unique mix of experience, culture, and economy. For example, Chinese AI will be (and is) very different from US AI. 🇨🇳 🇺🇸
I also wonder if we are heading towards a post-nation future that resembles some capitalist fever dream of multinational companies ruling everything? 🤔
Or maybe it creates one global government, Illuminati style. 👁
I find myself agreeing with a lot of what this guy says. Confirmation bias FTW! 🙌
Here are some quotes that represent what really spoke to me. 🗣
Artificial intelligence is a way of understanding what it means to be human beings.
We need to think about AI in terms of value alignment—I think that’s a better framework than, say, fairness and bias.
I think when we look back at what the U.S. intelligence community has concluded were Russian attempts to intervene in the 2016 presidential election, we’ll probably think those are child’s play. I would bet money that there’s going to be escalation on that front.
I wonder what level of intelligence would be required before we start thinking of autonomous systems less as this “other” and more as parts of our society
Src: RAND Review