The Fallacy of the Giant Cheesecake: Immediate & Imagined Impacts of AI

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After a number of AI-winters, AI is back with a boom. There are concerns that it will disrupt society. The immediate concern is whether labor can win a `race against the robots' and the longer-term concern is whether an artificial general intelligence (super-intelligence) can be controlled.

This paper describes the nature and context of these concerns, reviews the current state of the empirical and theoretical literature in economics on the impact of AI on jobs and inequality, and discusses the challenge of potentially detrimental AI arms races. It is concluded that despite the media hype neither massive jobs losses nor a `Singularity' are imminent. In part, this is because current AI, based on deep learning, is expensive and difficult for (especially small) businesses to adopt, and is an unlikely route to the invention of a super-intelligence.

Even though AI is unlikely to have either utopian or dis-utopian impacts, it will have a number of implications that will challenge economists in coming years. These include regulation of data and algorithms; the (mis-) measurement of value added; market failures, anti-competitive behaviour and abuse of market power; surveillance, censorship, cybercrime; and labor market discrimination and declining job quality.

About the speaker:
Wim Naudé is currently Visiting Professor in Technology, Innovation, Marketing and Entrepreneurship (TIME) at RWTH Aachen University, as well as Academic Visitor at Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. Previously he has been Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER in Helsinki, Finland; Professor at North-West University in South Africa; Research Officer and Lecturer at the University of Oxford, and Senior Associate Member of St. Antony's College, Oxford.

He is policy advisor to a number of international organizations on issues of global development. He has been in management and leadership positions in higher education since the mid-1990s including being Director of Research at North-West University in South Africa and the Dean of Maastricht School of Management.