Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) can be a force for good in our world. It can also be a force for evil. Until we are able to create a system that can think for itself, what they call general intelligence, it will be like any other tool a human wields. Its effects will correlate to the intent of the person using it.
I believe in the possibility of a collective humanity working for a common good. I see a future where artificial intelligence and unprecedented levels of automation can enhance our lives. That’s why I have started a company focused on both of these things.
If you aren’t paying attention to what’s happening in technology these days you should be. We are arriving at a point in our history that will become a new age in our existence. We have had the Industrial Age, the Information Age and now the Intelligence Age is upon us. I genuinely hope this will be followed by the space age!
First of all, let me start by mentioning Peter Diamandis and how he has championed the concept of Abundance. Abundance has become the foundation of my thinking and shapes my ideology on how we, as a species, can progress in the future.
If you are not familiar with his book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, I would recommend checking it out. Diamandis, and his co-author Steven Kotler, theorized that there are two perspectives to view the world through. Scarcity and Abundance.
Scarcity is a view of the world that there is insufficient resources for everyone. Countries and individuals should hoard what they have. Does this sound familiar? It should do. This is how the world currently operates.
Now this mindset makes total sense historically. Humanity has, until recent history, always lived like this. For thousands of years incremental advances in farming technology allowed us to grow, but it was only around the industrial age where we started to scale output and achieve mass production. This is what led to the levels of comfort that some of us experience today.
For millennia this world view, and corresponding behaviour, is how we have had to function. We really didn’t have enough to go around so we had to protect what was ours. This is where our scarcity mindset comes from. The good news is this is changing, and it is changing at an exponential rate.
Abundance is the idea that we will have more than enough of the resources we require. As our technology advances it will eventually allow us to solve most of the global issues we consider problems today.
This is already happening in the world; take a look at the price and availability of solar energy. The former decreases and the latter increases exponentially. The return on investment for Tesla’s newest installation in Australia in six months is phenomenal.
The same can be said of 3D printing technology, telecommunications, the internet, food, medicine and the list goes on. I believe we are solving our resource problems and the main obstacles to achieving an abundance framework is our culture, politics and way of life.
There is poverty and famine in the world. I’m not saying for a moment these things don’t exist. Yet there is enough resources for everyone. Look at money; the reason 90% of the world’s wealth resides in 1% of the population, isn’t because there is a lack of money, it is because humans still operate from scarcity.
Our societies are constructed around this scarcity mindset, and this is one of the biggest threats to how A.I. may be implemented into our societies.
This year multiple fast food chains in the US stated they would seriously consider replacing their staff with automated robots because of increases in minimum wages. This shows the complete willingness of corporations to increase their bottom line at the expense of their workforce.
People are already concerned about the future of their employment in other industries too. Mark Cuban has famously said the best skill in the future will be Creative Thinking because of the rise of these technologies.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. The Luddites burnt textile factories to the ground in the 19th century in protest of machines taking their jobs, and yet the fact is that after each major shift in technology more jobs have been created, not less.
If scarcity is the context that A.I. is built upon it will be used by a few at the disadvantage of the many.
I envision a future where working is entirely optional and people are free to pursue what truly matters to them. Some people laugh at me for the sheer audacity of this belief, but I genuinely see in the not too distant future a network of companies that can run themselves. Entirely separate entities in every sense of the word.
We are at a point where we will soon create sophisticated automation and A.I. that provides a product or service to humans without any human involvement.
If you think I am being far fetched scroll up to bit about the fast food chains. Still on the fence? Have you heard about Amazon Go? It’s Amazon’s new grocery store where there are no checkouts. You go in, pick up the items you want and walk out. Or, when Google installed Deep Mind into their data centres and reduced costs by 40%. Something a human couldn’t do. Does it still seem unrealistic?
So if the predictable future from a scarcity mindset is for companies to leverage this new technologies to increase their profits at the cost of other people’s jobs; what’s the alternative?
If I had an A.I. that was able to run a business, or the vast majority of operations thereof, the following is what I would do.
I would start buying businesses. I would begin to automate every aspect of the businesses I buy. Every employee I can replace would be replaced. However, as part of their severance package they’d also receive equity in the company. They would become shareholders and receive a share of the profits each year/month. They would reap the benefits of their artificial replacements.
This creates a win/win situation for everyone involved. The business owner can still get a massive return on their investment, the government will have a reduced welfare liability, and the employee will have passive income, and potentially enough financial freedom to pursue their dreams in another job or a business of their own.
With the rise of A.I. it will be a lot easier for people with entrepreneurial tendencies to explore them. Automation will allow people to focus on the parts of a business they love, and not concern themselves about those they don’t.
If people don’t want to work, they can live off the basic income from their equity, and if they have bigger aspirations they will have more opportunities to pursue them.
Bill Gates has said that robots who replace humans should pay taxes. Well this idea effectively pays that tax directly to the human who was impacted by the automation without putting additional strain on the state. As long as the company remains profitable the employees would receive a dividend.
I am not saying that this is the only solution. There are an abundance of positive options. I see a bright future for us, one full of opportunities. People need to see these opportunities and want them too. This is a change in mindset that needs bold leadership.
Elon Musk believes A.I. is one of the biggest threats to our existence, and I agree it could be, but nothing is ever certain. I want to be a part of changing the conversation, which begins by shifting to an abundance framework. The world is already a fundamentally different place than it was fifty years ago, and this disruption is not going to stop. That is why I started Thena.
Whilst we can learn lessons from the future; what got us here, won’t get us there. It is going to require a transformation in our collective thinking. Let’s change our perception of the world and view it through the lens of abundance.