How might AI impact developing economies?

Cheap, tailored expertise

Many of the poor have little access to experts, on topics ranging from physical and mental health, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. Hiring experts can be transformative: Bloom et al (2013) found that management consultants substantially improved production at textile factories in India. Many envisioned that the internet would level access to expertise, allowing entrepreneurs in Delhi and farmers in Western Kenya equal access to the world’s best knowledge. But, as anyone who owns a dusty textbook knows, raw information is not enough to lead to action. Most of the world’s knowledge is not written for the world’s poor. Much is written in English, some uses technical jargon, and has metaphors and references that make sense to people in Los Angeles but not in Lagos. AI can unlock the insight in this information for broader audiences. The newest generation of AI chatbots can not only translate between languages, but also change reading levels, remove jargon, and rewrite knowledge to use local customs and metaphors. These chatbots also allow you to have a conversation about the topic, allowing you to ask for clarification for specific parts, or specify that your needs differ from what the system had assumed. While these systems sometimes make mistakes, their quality, and ability to translate is improving quickly. And they allow almost zero cost access to the tailored expertise that would otherwise require hiring experts that would be prohibitively costly for the poor. This tailored expertise might improve business processes across developing economies for motivated people. Some startups are already developing targeted advisors for specific tasks, like choosing between schools (ConsiliumBots). Similar advisors could also help deliver medical advice to rural populations.

Here is more from Daniel Bjorkegren, an economist at Brown University.  Here is his paper on nostalgic demand.


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