Will AI “Change the World” Or Simply Boost Profits?

Will AI “Change the World” Or Simply Boost Profits? by Charles Hugh Smith – Of Two Minds

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.

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