If Machines Are Capable of Doing Almost Any Work Humans Can Do, What Will Humans Do?

Moshe Y. Vardi,  George Professor in Computational Engineering,  Director of the Kennedy Institute for Information Technology, Rice University

..by 2045 machines will be able to do a very significant fraction of the work that humans can do. …  If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?

Moshe WardiOver the past 15 years Artificial Intelligence has made a remarkable progress. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue program beating world champion Gary Kasparov. In 2005, a Stanford autonomous vehicle won a DARPA Grand Challenge by driving 131 miles along an unrehearsed desert trail. Two years later a CMU autonomous vehicle won a DARPA Urban Challenge by driving 55 miles in an urban environment while avoiding traffic hazards and obeying traffic laws. And then, in 2011, IBM’s Watson program defeated decisively the two greatest in Jeopardy!  While AI has been proven to be much more difficult than believed by its early pioneers, its inexorable progress over the past 50 years suggests that Herbert Simon was probably right when he wrote in 1956 “machines will be capable … of doing any work a man can do.” I do not expect this to happen in the very near future, but I do believe that by 2045 machines will be able to do if not any work that humans can do, then, at least, a very significant fraction of the work that humans can do. The following question, therefore, seems to be of paramount importance.  If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?

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