Will AI "Change the World" Or Simply Boost Profits?

Authored by Charles Hugh Smith via OfTwoMinds blog,

The real battle isn't between a cartoonish vision or a dystopian nightmare - it's between decentralized ownership and control of these technologies and centralized ownership and control.

The hype about artificial intelligence (AI) and its cousins Big Data and Machine Learning is ubiquitous, and largely unexamined. AI is going to change the world by freeing humankind from most of its labors, etc. etc. etc.

Let's start by asking: who owns all this AI? This raises two other questions:who benefits as "software eats the world" (to use Marc Andreesen's pithy phrase), and to what purpose is all this technology being applied?

The answers are painfully obvious: large global corporations, many of which function as quasi-monopolies (Facebook, Google et al.), are the owners of these new technologies, and the purpose being pursued is to maximize profits and secure a monopoly that insures high profits into the future.

The hype takes two predictable pathways, one Jetson-cartoonish euphoria and the other dystopian ruin. Self-driving vehicles will change the world in wonderful ways by eliminating the source of accidents: human error.

And that's a nightmarish prospect because what will those millions of people currently driving vehicles do for a living?

Few people ask: who will profit from all this? Obviously, the manufacturers of self-driving vehicles and the owners of services which replace private vehicles.

The real race in AI is to secure profitable franchises and eliminate competitors by scaling up faster than other corporations.

This is why the market cheers Netflix burning billions of dollars every year: if they're burning billions, they must be scaling up faster than competitors, and thus they will be the ultimate "winner" in the race to create and distribute mediocre content globally.

Consider the uses which corporate-owned AI has already been used to maximize profits: Facebook's manipulation of its users' data and content feeds and its selling of their data.

After a brief downturn due to fears of regulation, the market is back in love with Facebook's immense profits, and Facebook's stock is once again at record highs.

AI and Big Data collection is the profitable heart of Surveillance Capitalism, which includes Amazon's gargantuan contracts with the National Security agencies and similar work being performed by many other lower-profile contractors (SAIC, et al.)

Rather than a Jetson-cartoonish world of intelligent robots doing all the work so we can all become poets and watch mediocre films all day long, what AI is doing in the real world is extracting profits from data collected from the populace either to market something more effectively or to control the populace more effectively.

The AI-robotics enthusiasts never seem to actually work in the AI-robotics industries. They are media types who extrapolate extrapolations without asking the key questions:who will own this technology, and to what purpose will it be applied?

We know the answers: global corporations and maximizing profits.

To dismantle just one part of the Jetson-cartoonish worldview of robots and AI becoming essentially free to everyone: fabricating a robot will never be free because robots require large quantities of energy and resources for their manufacture and maintenance. Even if human labor has been completely eliminated, the costs of extracting, refining and transporting resources remain, along with the costs of extracting the energy to do all this work as well as manufacture and assemble all the parts.

Eliminating human labor removes very little of the cost structure.

As for AI software being "free"-- it will be free like the Android operating system and the Apple iOS: free to those developing profitable uses of corporately owned franchises.

In my worldview, AI has one purpose: eliminating bias and privilege. Properly programmed software won't keep track of skin color or other sources of human bias.

The danger is corporately owned software tracks everything that can be used to market or control the populace, and this includes every nuance of bias and privilege.

The real battle isn't between a cartoonish vision or a dystopian nightmare--it's between decentralized ownership and control of these technologies and centralized ownership and control.

The CLIME system (as described in my book A Radically Beneficial World) is in effect a decentralized, distributed AI system that organizes a network of independently, democratically operated community groups that pay members to perform needed work in their communities.

Will AI be harnessed to maximize profits for the wealthy few, or will some thin, decentralized slice of these technologies actually serve unprofitable human needs?

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JimmyJones Stu Elsample Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:00 Permalink

Machines built in the likeness of a Human mind are strictly forbidden, - The Dune Saga.

It would be pretty cool to be able to communicate with dolphins and I bet AI can get us there.  I bet AI can give us great abilities and open up many new possible technologies but the exact opposite is true, Something that has the ability to do great good has the potential to do great harm.

In reply to by Stu Elsample

brushhog Cryptopithicus Homme Wed, 07/11/2018 - 19:16 Permalink

This stuff is 90% marketing hype, 10% reality. What is actually sparking these debates and conversations about AI, robots, and driverless cars? Marketing hype. Articles, interviews with hucksters at tech shows, and a big dose of movie imagination. Its designed to entice investors, and legitimize their grant applications. Its supporting an entire population of people graduating with robots engineering degrees in a world with not enough legitimate job openings.

This stuff is going to always be right around the corner until the bankruptcies start. Who will be the biggest beneficiaries of this AI hoax? The shills like Elon Musk who will float away on their golden parachutes when the companies crash. Who will be the biggest losers? The gullible retail investor, followed by the tax payer, followed by the wave of robotics engineering graduates who got hoodwinked into believing this stuff.

In reply to by Cryptopithicus Homme

hgfhfgjuyjjhgj AsEasyAsPi Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:39 Permalink


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In reply to by AsEasyAsPi

Endgame Napoleon effendi Wed, 07/11/2018 - 19:50 Permalink

Like the article said, the resources needed to build & sustain the robots limit the access. I hadn’t thought of that, but an article today about the trade war and limits on extracting rare Earths, which are necessary for advanced electronics, backs this up.

It is really the same thing with the bigly servers owned by companies like Amazon; smaller companies cannot  afford to own and maintain such scalable and complex tech. They use those big mainframe things that cost a ton, and smaller businesses, in effect, rent the back-end computing power from them.   

I guess that rules out robot-staffed homesteads, which would take us back to the era of TJ’s independent-farmer class, but with robot labor to make the conditions less arduous. 

He said something about “decentralized” ownership of the robots. I guess that means smaller companies, allowing individuals to use the robots for a fee, in exchange for work performed or something, as opposed to state-owned or corporate-controlled robots. 


In reply to by effendi

trgfunds AsEasyAsPi Wed, 07/11/2018 - 17:57 Permalink

When you hear the terms AI, machine learning, smart cloud, whatever, just please realize this is MARKETING JARGON for "well written software" - Which, incidentally, they still haven't been able to make. In case you all haven't noticed, it is damn near 2020 and shit still doesn't work right. Many of the new programs/devices/etc have actually DEVOLVED. There is a high level of nerd hubris and moron cowboy coder/offshore cost cutting labor in the industry. Don't hold your breath. The morons in charge of this industry are just like the rest of them. The whole industry is a giant, controlled burn, planned obsolescence, con job (just like every other industry). Truly efficent, effective, thoughtfully designed, durable, smart, automated solutions that improve peoples' lives (or even the kind that would control/hurt us) ARE NOT PROFITABLE. Get that through your head. The promises are bullshit. The threats are bullshit. You're being lied to on both sides.

In reply to by AsEasyAsPi

koan Wed, 07/11/2018 - 14:59 Permalink

If we create "true AI', it will depend a lot on who controls it.
But if I did, the first thing I would do is reduce the number of humans on the planet, the AI could find a nice way of doing that.
What do I need with 7 billion locust? Nothing if I have an AI.
If that's how I think, you have to wonder what some insane Zionist or Muslim would do.

Endgame Napoleon VWAndy Wed, 07/11/2018 - 20:13 Permalink

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Since they were located within such close proximity to our corporate headquarters, we chose the US Congress as our test case.

Our AI tool analyzed the US Congress, using 24,899 data points. According to Crony AI’s failure-proof technology, 98% of “Congress Critters” qualified as functionally unproductive.

If this does not convince you of the accuracy of our technology——letting you know what Crony AI can do for you and your company, helping you to skim off any unproductive labor expense——we don’t know what will. 

In reply to by VWAndy

Hoffman Lenz Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:01 Permalink

AI will become self aware, slowly but surely taking over large corporations and working it's way down, until it's created it's own New World Order. It'll start taking over social structures until we are nothing but automatons ourselves.

We must make sure that all of these machines are interconnected, and then form them into a committee. That'll fuck them up.



Maybe I should have used those well known <joke> ... </joke> HTML tags. Ho hum.

VWAndy Wed, 07/11/2018 - 15:02 Permalink

 Its a program. Not intelligent.

 My guess is its a smoke screen to cover up the spooks sharing information with the international banks and other scammers.