2022 as the year of AI?

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

But the benefits of AI do not accrue only to those in the technology sector. AI makes many goods and services cheaper, and that in turn benefits the poor and disadvantaged. If software routes packages and shipments more efficiently, then transportation costs will be lower. If software and AI programs help economize on the use of electricity, then it will be easier to mitigate climate change. As computational biology improves health care, the sick will benefit.

The people who least need AI are the super-rich. They already can hire armies of servants to manage their obligations, schedules, and so on. They do not need to economize on the use of human labor. The rest of us do, whether directly or indirectly through the businesses we patronize.

Another benefit for lower-income groups is that current manifestations of AI do not usually displace the jobs of the poor. Many poor individuals hold jobs in the service sector or perform manual labor. Those tasks are either hard to automate (a robot gardener?) or, because wages are low, less profitable to automate.

It may be true that the costs of AI in the labor force — displaced jobs — are more visible than the benefits of AI — new jobs and lower prices. So it’s not surprising if AI is not entirely popular.

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