Summary: Finally the AI revolution and the coming great extinction of jobs has become visible to almost everyone. Only its timing remains unknown. New research shows experts’ forecasts of AI’s growing skills, valuable information that will help us prepare. Let’s use it!
“When Will AI Exceed Human Performance?
Evidence from AI Experts.”
“Our survey population was all researchers who published at the 2015 NIPS and ICML conferences (two of the premier venues for peer-reviewed research in machine learning). …Our survey used the following definition: High-level machine intelligence (HLMI) is achieved when unaided machines can accomplish every task better and more cheaply than human workers.
Figure 1: Aggregate subjective probability of ‘high-level machine intelligence’ arrival.
“Each individual respondent estimated the probability of HLMI arriving in future years. Taking the mean over each individual, the aggregate forecast gave a 50% chance of HLMI occurring within 45 years and a 10% chance of it occurring within 9 years. …
“The question defined full automation of labor as: when all occupations are fully automatable. That is, when for any occupation, machines could be built to carry out the task better and more cheaply than human workers. Forecasts for full automation of labor were much later than for HLMI: the mean of the individual beliefs assigned a 50% probability in 122 years from now and a 10% probability in 20 years. …
Figure 2: Timeline of Median Estimates for AI Achieving Human Performance.
The first graph looks out 200 year; the second looks at the next 30 years.
“Respondents were also asked when 32 ‘milestones’ for AI would become feasible. …Specifically, intervals represent the date range from the 25% to 75% probability of the event occurring …. Circles denote the 50%-probability year. Each milestone is for AI to achieve or surpass human expert/professional performance ….
Two other conclusions.
“1. We asked researchers whether the rate of progress in machine learning was faster in the first or second half of their career. Sixty-seven percent (67%) said progress was faster in the second half of their career and only 10% said progress was faster in the first half. …
“2. Explosive progress in AI after HLMI is seen as possible but improbable. Some authors have argued that once HLMI is achieved, AI systems will quickly become vastly superior to humans in all tasks. This acceleration has been called the ‘intelligence explosion.’ We asked respondents for the probability that AI would perform vastly better than humans in all tasks two years after HLMI is achieved. The median probability was 10% …. We also asked respondents for the probability of explosive global technological improvement two years after HLMI. Here the median probability was 20% ….”
For more about the study and its results, see this article by lead researcher Katja Grace.
“Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) will transform modern life by reshaping transportation, health, science, finance, and the military. To adapt public policy, we need to better anticipate these advances. Here we report the results from a large survey of machine learning researchers on their beliefs about progress in AI. Researchers predict AI will outperform humans in many activities in the next ten years, such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high-school essays (by 2026), driving a truck (by 2027), working in retail (by 2031), writing a bestselling book (by 2049), and working as a surgeon (by 2053).
“Researchers believe there is a 50% chance of AI outperforming humans in all tasks in 45 years and of automating all human jobs in 120 years, with Asian respondents expecting these dates much sooner than North Americans. These results will inform discussion amongst researchers and policymakers about anticipating and managing trends in AI.”
Putting this in a larger context the last human-build machine
“Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man, however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.”
— “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine” by I. J. Good (Irving John Good; British statistician) in Advances in Computers, vol. 6, 1965 – gated. Ungated version here. He worked as a cryptographer at Bletchley Park during WWII.
See this interesting story of how this might happen: “The Last Invention of Man” by Max Tegmark at Nautilus, October 2017 — “How AI might take over the world.”
“I went through this Ford engine plant about three years ago, when they first opened it. There are acres and acres of machines, and here and there you will find a worker standing at a master switchboard, just watching, green and yellow lights blinking off and on, which tell the worker what is happening in the machine. One of the management people, with a slightly gleeful tone in his voice said to me, ‘How are you going to collect union dues from all these machines?’ And I replied, “You know, that is not what’s bothering me. I’m troubled by the problem of how to sell automobiles to these machines.”
We have had several waves of automation, and adapted to each one — often with social turmoil and violence. The lessons from those can help us in this, the big one. These machines make possible a new, more prosperous, and better world. We need only find political solutions that fairly distribute its benefits. The clock is running. Let’s start now.
For More Information
The new industrial revolution has begun. New research shows more robots = fewer jobs. Also see the famous book by Wassily Leontief (Nobel laureate in economics), The Future Impact of Automation on Workers (1986). Also see the Frequently Asked Questions page at the website of the Machine Intelligence Research Institute.
- A warning about the robot revolution from a great economist.
- How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over.
- Economists show the perils and potential of the coming robot revolution.
- Three visions of our future after the robot revolution.
- The coming Great Extinction – of jobs.
- Lessons for us about AI from the horse apocalypse.
Books about the coming great wave of automation.
Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin Ford (2015).
The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee (2014).