This year saw a real push of AI into the general marketplace. With things like AI artwork now a reality, AI that can write simple stories, and even AI that can code all coming to a forefront this year... AI is moving quickly from sci-fi to reality.
What does the future of Human endeavor look like in such a world?
The "New Industry" model doesn't work anymore
Anytime people get concerned about automation and AI, the most common retort is "just like when robots replaced us in the industrial revolution and we moved to service jobs, there will be all sorts of new jobs for humans to do in the future, jobs we can't even dream of yet."
I think this is a fallacy in the new paradigm.
Will there be new jobs and industries, absolutely, 100%. They just won't be done by humans. At the end of the day, all labor ever created has two components, a physical and a mental one. Robots largely replaced human physical labor during the industrial revolution, so humans moved to more mental jobs. Well now AI is started to take over the mental side....and once they can do that as well (or nearly as well) as a human.....what's left?
Sure there will be new jobs, and perhaps for a little while humans will do them. Until someone teaches an AI to do it (or the AIs are smart enough to just learn it themselves), and then once again that job will belong to the machines. And that window will close over time, as AIs get better and faster, it will come to a point where new industries would have to be created constantly to keep humans employed....and eventually AIs may learn so quickly even that wouldn't be viable anymore, it would be economically better not to have humans do it at all, but wait a short timespan and let the AIs take it on.
You don't need to replace ALL jobs to have major disruption
Another common retort is, "people still do physical jobs in the post robot world, there will still be jobs". And that is true, its unlikely every single human on the planet would be jobless. But even if just 10% of the market was taking over by machines....that is still a MASSIVE disruption. That is still more unemployment than we have seen since depression times, its a massive shakeup in the economy and people's way of life.
What do humans do in a post labor society?
Now lets assume we get over the hump. We transition into a world where AI does all the main work, and humans now have infinite luxury. That sounds pretty good right?
However, there is a problem....what do humans actually "do" in that society? Creative jobs....AI once sophisticated enough could generate songs, poems, artwork so beautiful it would likely dwarf anything a human could generate. Exploration of teh galaxy, eh machines can do that better to. Lounge about all day and do nothing?.... a lot of people depend on "purpose" as a part of their psycological wellbeing. Without an endeavor that has meaning (whether its for the good of society or just to increase your wealth)...I fear that many humans would flounder, suicide rates would increase, depression would skyrocket.
Most people need something to do... so how does it work in a world that no longer needs them to do anything?
Is Chess the Savior of Humanity?
So far I've painted a pretty bleak picture, but I think chess may offer us the light of hope.
Chess is a scenario where the AI has already "won". There is not a Grandmaster alive that can beat even a stock standard chess computer you could get on your phone. There is literally no reason for humans to play chess, we "suck" compared to machines. And yet.... people do play chess. We have grandmasters that are famous and respected for doing something "that technically has no value".
Perhaps in a world where all labor is taken over by AI, humans will simply create purpose. Just as we play chess even though there is no reason too, we will continue to paint, create, tell stories etc. Not because our work is better than an AIs (it won't be), but because we are creators at heart, and will continue to create for ourselves and others....even in a world without need of it. Some have argued purpose has always been a construct of the mind....no reason it cannot continue to be in an AI driven world.