Blog #124 – Dear Artificial Intelligence


Dear Artificial Intelligence.
On reading economics, thinking Artificial Intelligence might help.
But recalling Faust on self-doubt and Bernie Sanders on winners and losers

Here I sit, a PhD. a retired legal technician,
I’ve had to study the latest economics as if on a mission
I’ve spent hours on the web and can do no more.
Yet here I sit, poor fool, and am no wiser than before,

Maybe artificial intelligence will solve all those problems
I won’t have to go back and read all those volumes
JI can just lie back and let it all sink in
And I will know who will lose and who will win.

Yet if I think about it just as bit more
I’ll realize I actually knew the answer to that before.

To wit the answer is:

The winners will be those that were rich and have all the money,
Whose words were all so persuasive, all dripping with honey
Who only do what their lawyer says the law will allow,
Who sometimes acted quickly and sometime acted slow.
But whether the markets are frozen or runny
Whether the forecasts are cloudy or sunny
The rich always turn out to be winners. Wow isn’t that funny?

And I had to read economics to learn that?
Working hard while others grew fat?
And still not have the power to change it at all?
Maybe Artificial Intelligence will help where the natural fails?
And is better than just flipping a coin and calling heads or tails?

But that doesn’t mean Artificial Intelligence can’t have any good use
Only that what it’s taken to be doing can be seriously misleading
By ignoring whose hand and whose interest is doing its feeding.
Not disclosing who owns its product can lead to dangerous abuse.
Pretending that if something is the result of A.I.,
Without disclosing who’s asking the questions
What stake they have in what the answers are,
Against such practices there should be a bar.

Dear A.I., the problems economics describes seem intractable to me,
The answers, A.I. or no, seem to me nowhere in sight.
I’m not even sure I know which ones are harmful, which ones right.
So A.I., if you’re so smart, please tell me what I should do,
And I’ll go do it, and if it goes wrong, blame the results on you.
Of course if it succeeds, I’ll take the credit for having seen the light.

So remember, Dear Artificial Intelligence,
You may think you’re so smart
But– you and we know you don’t have a heart,
You can’t tell the good from the bad
You don’t know if you’re being used honorably or being had
You may know moral values by their name,
And you may even refer to them without shame
But letting feelings influence your work is for you are a no-no
People are just numbers in some algorithm you have developed.
You can’t tell whether the level of happiness produced is high or is low.
All most of your clients seem to care about is the dough.

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Author: pmarcuse

Just starting this blog, for short pieces on current issues. Suggestions for improvement, via e-mail, very welcome. pm35@columbia.edu

5 thoughts on “Blog #124 – Dear Artificial Intelligence”

  1. Recently Ive been amazed at how rapidly machine learning has been advancing the state of the art. What was cutting edge just two or three years ago is now mainstream. We’re going to see a whole host of new technologies that allow everyday people to do tasks without programmers, simply by teaching their hardware to do something as you might teach a person to do it. Using neural nets. So, AI wont be the source of new jobs some people are hoping, quite the opposite, it will make it easy to replace large numbers of workers. This shouldnt be surprising to people as thats been the goal of technology all along. However it represents the largest challenge the human race has ever faced. We might think of this as our coming of age as a sentient species. Will we make it, or not?

    Strangely enough, the core of the matter is not where people think it is. The real roadblock lies in an ‘agreement’ which nobody seems to know about, on ‘services’. To address the need for non-market solutions, to go back to the compassionate government we – or most of us, think we still had (which was ended with the creation of the WTO in 1995) we must recognize and dump this ‘agreement’ that literally hijacks the planets future- and not enter into any new ones or we’re going to have a hell of a problem.

    These agreements also trade jobs for markets, in order to make it possible to bypass and frustrate the will of the voters effectively they need to create international entitlements for either other nations (the WTO approach) or for corporations (the US style negative list/ISDS approach) Both have to go.
    This is what the battle over the WTO is really about, ‘services’ and what amounts to a plan to hijack the future’s policy by turning it into international entitlements to sell crapified, privatized services. Basically its a scheme to privatize literally everything everywhere. The elites agree on that, but the devil is in the details and the terms are the subject of a dispute which goes back almost to the very beginning of the agreement at Punta Del Este, Uruguay in the late 80s. Everybody knows that jobs as we know them are vanishing, the problem is, due to a phenomenon called the Law of Accelerating Returns, only scientists seem to realize how much and how fast, everybody else grossly underestimates the rate of change at the cutting edge.

    So, what made sense in the 80s and 90s makes no sense now, but that doesnt matter, these deals lock in and cant be reversed and that is one of the biggest problems with them.

    This is likely the real cause of the drama over ‘immigration’ and also school privatization. This is also why they broke the promise of student loan forgiveness for public servants. You cant forgive loans for public services that no longer can exist, instead they are all being privatized and traded away to the lowest bidder. The agreements allege a right to basically implement a huge list of bad and oftentimes rejected policy ideas, putting an ever growing scope of jobs on the table. One can see how, nomatter who ‘wins’ shattered expectations all around will become a very big problem.

    This is why academics admit that the WTO has a very big problem with legitimacy. The biggest problems are with the incorporation of services into the scope of the agreements. This is way beyond what people expect from governments, as we think we can solve problems like health care ourselves, and not be locked in by irreversible rights to make money off of things that should not be reduced to money.

    Governments helping people should not have been put on the bargaining table. Nor should jobs have been. the result may effectively become people paying for experience, with their almost free labor.

    Who will be entitled to do the remaining jobs as they are privatized and globalized? the children of the wealthy? This is because in some fields wages are very low, which reflects those fields status as training. Its a race that most people cant afford to engage in. Its also disputed whether national minimum wage laws can apply to foreign professionals. (See the USCIS case “Matter of I-Corp) The WTO bars ‘economic means tests” outright. Application of national minimum wages are disputed as the supplying countries claim it deprives them of their main advantage, which they are entitled to take advantage of by the agreement, extremely inexpensive high skill labor.

    Also countries like the US’s use of quotas to limit numbers to a tiny percentage of the natural amount are a subject of an international dispute, filed in March 2016 in the WTO. The supplying countries assert that the natural numbers of workers they could supply – freed of quotas would be much higher. Economists like Princeton’s Alan Blinder agree. As many as a quarter to a third of US jobs could be outsourced via these new frameworks. (many of the remaining jobs would not qualify, not requiring some special skill)

    Just like slavery was very hard to get rid of because it was a moneymaker, so will this become, cheap dis-empowered high skill labor. No longer would STEM careers hole the allure they do now, they would become something else entirely because of their difficulty combined with very low pay. That would be a huge mistake. Also – these changes might have the effect of forcing large numbers of people to effectively trade places so they could work – in order to disempower them of rights artificially. (and lower their pay) That would also become a huge voter disenfranchisement program, as shipping millions of young people to other countries to work, could also deprive many people of the right to vote. It also likely would threaten Social Security in the US with privatization just as millions would be losing jobs and needing it. Read the fine print in the WTO’s Annex on Financial Services.

    Forensic accounting expert Patricia Arnold wrote a good short paper on this problem for Public Citizen a number of years ago, it bears another reading.

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