“The rise of artificial intelligence is the great story of our time,” notes What to Do When Machines Do Everything in its Preface. The book was published earlier this year by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Bring of Cognizant’s Center for the Future of Work. “Artificial intelligence has left the laboratory (and the movie lot)… It’s pervading all the institutions that drive our global economy.… And this is just the beginning.”
The book deals with a number of important questions: When machines do everything, what am I going to do?; Will a robot take my job away?; How are humans going to make a living?; What will my industry look like in 10 years?; Will my children be better off than I am?
Overall, the authors are optimistic about the future, reminding us that we’ve been here before. Automation anxieties have been with us ever since the 1810s, when the so-called Luddites smashed the new weaving machines that were threatening their textile jobs, and they continued to resurface over the past two centuries right along with advances in technology.
Over 60 years ago, the advent of computers led to a new round of automation fears. In 1965, Newsweek devoted a special issue to The Challenge of Automation, which it called “the most controversial economic concept of the age. Businessmen love it. Workers fear it. The government frets and investigates and wonders what to do about it.
In his 1964 Bill creating the National Commission on Technology, Automation and Economic Progress, President Lyndon Johnson said that “Technology is creating both new opportunities and new obligations for us, opportunity for greater productivity and progress - obligation to be sure that no workingman, no family must pay an unjust price for progress.”