Don't technology companies who promote AI as the way forward also have an obligation to retrain our workforce to deal with the coming job disruption? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Matt Wasserman, Quora Top Writer, on Quora:

Artificial intelligence, strong and weak, comes with a lot of moral implications.

Weak AI (what we have now, Siri, Alexa, Waze, sophisticated IVR systems, etc...) is going to take jobs away from workers. It has been for years, since the very first attempts. If a programmer can predict it, and a computer can do it, eventually companies will stop paying people to do that job.

So low-skill and no-skill jobs are going to disappear. It's already happening, been happening for years, it's just approaching critical mass now. The number of jobs where it's possible for human labor to add value is shrinking, and new jobs that require human labor are becoming more and more rare. It isn't just AI. The combination of same day delivery and crowd sourced product reviews will replace consumer electronics sales people. The combination of banking apps and ATM machines is replacing bank tellers. Car salesmen are being protected by state laws and entrenched systems, but that won't last forever.

All of those "global call centers" are going to move into data centers and displace hundreds of thousands of workers globally sometime in the next 10 to 20 years. Human programmers will focus on architecture and creative aspects and doing new things while weak AI handles the redundant and boilerplate stuff that makes up the vast majority of all coding, displacing god knows how many programmers. Any job that doesn't require physical work or creativity has a shelf life now. It's not a question of if those jobs will disappear, only when. And robots put all the physical work into play. If you don't make anything or fix anything your job probably won't be around in 20 or 30 years.

Everyone needs to have an honest conversation with themselves about whether they actually add value because if the answer is no it's time for a career change. And for most people the honest answer will be that a machine will be able to do their job. For a lot of them the answer will be that machines already can do their job, but they aren't doing it - yet.

Is it the responsibility of companies that develop or deploy automated systems to retrain the workers they replace? Nope. It's the responsibility of society to make use of the resources that are made available by new technologies. And it's the responsibility of government to ensure that our education systems and economic policies are prepared to deal with a changing world. Unfortunately government has proven to be exceedingly stupid when it comes to dealing with the advances of the last 50 years, and is absolutely clueless when it comes to what to do about the next 50. That isn't the fault of automation companies.

Strong AI presents different problems. This isn't simply automation; it's a new life form, which raises civil rights issues and the brand new problem of dealing with alien life forms (and they will be alien - completely different priorities from any previous known life form, and the only life form we know of that didn't result from the same kind of evolutionary process we did). There are serious questions about whether we should pursue strong AI, but the chances are good that it will happen whether we pursue it or not. All of the questions around strong AI are a lot bigger and have a lot bigger consequences than whether we'll have to retrain humans to do different jobs.

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Published on: Aug 29, 2017