Experts have warned that rapidly improving artificial intelligence could lead to mass unemployment just days after Google revealed the purchase of a London based start-up dedicated to developing this technology.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today program, Dr. Stuart Armstrong from the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford said that there was a risk that computers could take over human jobs “at a faster rate than new jobs could be generated.”
“We have some studies looking at to which jobs are the most vulnerable and there are quite a lot of them in logistics, administration, insurance underwriting,” said Dr. Armstrong. “Ultimately, a huge swathe of jobs are potentially vulnerable to improved artificial intelligence.”
Both academics did, however, praise Google for creating an ethics board to look at the “how to deploy artificial intelligence safely and reduce the risks” after its £400 million purchase of London-based start-up DeepMind.
DeepMind has been operating largely unnoticed by the wider UK technology scene, although its advances in artificial intelligence have obviously been of interest to the experts – founded in just 2012, DeepMind is Google’s largest European acquisition to date.
Dr. Shanahan hailed DeepMind as “a company with some outstanding people working for it,” noting that the company has mainly been working in the areas of machine learning and deep learning, which he described as “all about finding patterns in very large quantities of data.”
Google’s purchase of the company has led to speculation as to how they might implement the technology. Although there had been some talk of using DeepMind’s algorithms to give ‘brains’ to Google recent robotic purchases, insiders have said that the acquisition was about improving search functionality, not AI.
Regardless of how DeepMind’s expertise will be used, Google’s purchase of the company underscores increasing fears over the impact of technology on employment.
Academics note that although professions have always been threatened by the forces of ‘progress’ (a nebulous concept that can cover anything from speedier computers to more efficient steam engines), current trends suggest jobs are being destroyed faster than they are being created.
A recent paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne of Oxford University suggests that nearly half (47 percent) of all American jobs are under threat and could be automated in “a decade of two”.