Automation vs. Artificial Intelligence

Did Adam Smith ever take into account the possibility of artificial intelligence?  How would he have reacted to this development?  What are we supposed to do about the rising intelligence of computing power and the possibility of independently-learning computers?

First of all, we MUST make the distinction between automation and artificial intelligence.  Automation is a net positive for society.  It allows us to make quicker decisions and complete processes much quicker than in previous years.  Why is this positive?  Well automation has changed occupations but hasn’t actually decreased anyone’s employment.  There are countless professors and researchers who have studied this topic only to find that automation simply creates new jobs where old ones are retired.  The beauty of this system is that certain processes may remain in place as long as we are content with them.  Microsoft Excel and it’s various add-in automation solver components, for example, has been useful for over 20 years now.  The essence of Excel has barely changed yet has been useful for increasing the efficiency of various other industries.  This blank-slate program has made it easier to create strategic business decisions and has probably improved our overall quality of life as a society.  Excel has opened up an opportunity for an expansion of careers involving Excel.  The better we get at using it, the more we realize we can use this tool to do some incredible stuff.  Nowadays if you are very proficient at Excel, you can land a job quite easily, in my opinion.

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Automation creates new positions

Artificial intelligence, on the other hand, is a far greater challenge to actually achieve.  The concept of AI was first really brought into the public light by Alan Turing in 1950 when he asked if computers could think independently and grow without human input.  Both of those stipulations, in my opinion, are impossible to achieve.  Human input will always be involved.  The random synapses in our brains combined with our organic composition make us incredibly incredibly unique.  Organic beings have limitations, no doubt, but we also possess a randomness that makes us so creative and unique.  Machines will always be our tools, in my opinion.  We, as humans, program them and tell them to do things.  Maybe they will end up beating Gary Kasparov in chess or winning Jeopardy, but does that mean they are actually artificial?  No.  Artificial intelligence strives to emulate human beings, albeit at a faster rate of learning than human beings.  If human beings are also evolving organically, we should instead marvel at human intelligence, not artificial intelligence.

As machinery becomes more and more complex, we must understand that it is all simply automation.  Humans have very basic desires and needs and computers are merely here to serve our needs in a simpler process.

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