Artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a significant influence on everyday life, from Amazon’s Alexa learning which restaurants its users like, to Apple’s iPhone predicting the next word in a text message.
What happens to economic growth if artificial intelligence starts generating original thought is the question that Northwestern economist Benjamin Jones and his colleagues are now asking. How much more human work AI can automate, including the generation of new ideas, are the areas that researchers looking at.
“If machine learning can really take over all human tasks and take over ideas of innovation, then it would be possible to get a radical change in the growth rate” of the economy, Jones said. “But the real question is going to be: can AI take over all of the essential tasks?”
A paper entitled “Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth” for the National Bureau of Economic Research earlier this month, contained details of the research by Jones, along with Chad Jones of Stanford University and Philippe Aghion of the College de France.
Some jobs could see skyrocketing wage growth while others could become obsolete if rapidly-improving artificial intelligence can provide the markets with innovations to improve the workplace.
With the world’s top technology companies leading the way, AI activity has been accelerating. One popular subject of experimentation has been self-driving vehicles. While Amazon has long used AI to recommend products in its e-commerce business, chipmakers including Nvidia have refined their products to better suit AI computations.
For its project in which a computer learns how to play the board game Go, Google-owned DeepMind published the latest findings of Alphago this week. After only three days of training, Google’s existing AlphaGo was beaten 100 times consecutively by this latest installment, dubbed Alpha Zero.
Different scenarios were looked at by Jones and his research team. If people could be replaced by AI in all tasks was the first modeled growth. Growth with partial automation is the other models was looked at. As the steam engine did in the 1800s and early computer chips did in the middle 20th century, the ongoing research is aimed at finding how AI can be useful in generating economic growth, even though there weren’t any stark numerical findings.
The research team showed that only AI and economic capital could be required for the generation of new ideas, replacing labor with artificial intelligence in one model.
With each new cycle more intelligent than the previous one, some have hypothesized that AI could enter into a rapid cycle of self-improvement. Such a development could dramatically change the way people live.
Whether AI can — or even should — reach the point where it can generate original ideas is one topic which has evoked ongoing disagreement among economists, Jones said.
“The way to think about it is bottlenecks,” explained Jones. “We are vastly better at growing food than we were 100 years ago, but by virtue of automation it now only accounts for 2 percent of GDP.”
“We have computers that are mind-bogglingly fast,” continued Jones. “And yet, growth recently has been slower than it has been. Our limit to economic performance probably isn’t computation, right? We’re still heavily constrained by things we can’t or find harder to improve.”
(Adapted from CNBC)