©2018 Kari Carlisle
The AI apocalypse is here.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic, but we do have a problem. The problem is not with Artificial Intelligence. Robots are not taking over. AI has not developed consciousness and is systematically eliminating the human race from existence. The problem, once again, is humans. Particular nasty humans are using (misusing) AI for their own selfish greed.
As you know, unless you are a hermit living in a cave, many people around the world are currently swept up into a buying frenzy. The holidays are the excuse, but it’s just an excuse. People like buying things whether they have the means or not. Magic plastic cards enable people without money in the bank to keep buying.
Many of the items being purchased are gifts for children. We want our kids and grandkids to have everything they want during this magical time of year. I’m guilty. My dogs probably have as many toys as your kids.
All this buying seems to be the thread that our economy is dangling from. I’m sure that’s not really true, but I’m no economist. Judging from news about holiday spending and the origin of the term, Black Friday, the day many retailers finally get into “the black” (making a profit) for the year, holiday spending is clearly important to retailers at least.
Here’s where AI fits in. People are using algorithms to purchase popular toys online, all of them, and then resell them at a higher price. Great for retailers – they sell their stock faster than anticipated, and customers, who desperately need to buy something, buy other things that are still in stock, increasing sales (and revenues) for the retailer. Now, the retailer can buy more stock and give more dividends to their stockholders, another winner.
Who loses? The consumer. After Mrs. Consumer doesn’t find Popular Toy that Consumer, Jr. will just die if he doesn’t get, Mrs. Consumer buys five other toys on MajorRetailer.com, hoping that will make up for Consumer, Jr.’s disappointment. After a sleepless night, Mrs. Consumer goes back online in a desperate attempt to find Popular Toy, because she just can’t bear to see the disappointed look on Consumer, Jr.’s face. To her delight, she finds Popular Toy for sale on MajorResaler.com. It’s considerably more expensive, but she’s too happy and excited to care. Consumer, Jr. gets six toys and never learns to deal with disappointment.
When you saw on the news that consumer spending is up and record sales are being made, and therefore, consumer confidence must be up, did it make you happy? Sure! It means the economy is improving, right? I don’t think so. I think that consumers are being screwed. And I doubt it’s an anomaly. I think bad people will continue to find new and dangerous ways to use AI to profit, and this is only the beginning.
It’s not necessarily bad people doing all the damage, either. Wall Street is using algorithms to automate stock exchanges. The more we rely on AI to do economic “labor,” the more we risk catastrophic damage to the economy across the globe before humans recognize the failure and pull the plug.
What can we do about it? Not much, I fear. Sit back and watch the show. But at least be aware of the potential problems and teach Junior something about disappointment. And buffer yourself from economic troubles ahead. Stay away from the magic plastic. It will ruin you, AI apocalypse or not.