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Entrepreneurship in the Automated World

As advanced civilization crosses the threshold into an era of extensive automation we are found with a greater degree of leisure time, but also a decreasing demand for both intellectual and manual labor. This trend has inspired many economic, political and ethical questions surrounding many of the proposed solutions. Developments in science and technology are assumed to have a direct benefit on society as a whole, but if we are left with a nation without discretionary consumerism creative innovation will slow dramatically. The most popular solution is a national basic income so that people can meet a baseline standard of living, however, this proposal carries its own set of issues. This begs the question; can modern automation coexist with the free market that fostered its development?

In a World Economic Forum article Kathleen Elkin cites the Oxford study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.” The author states, “It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.” (Elkin) With this said, Entrepreneurship in America is at it’s highest rate in decades. The course of technology at the moment allows for many of the most creative thinkers to find ways to either digitally or physically automate different industries and markets at massive gains to them. However all predictions point that the majority of industries will be entirely automated in the not too far future. With this in mind, creative thinking would have to be the one thing that computers can never replace, and if one were to think of mental capacity on the basis of supply and demand it would seem that innovative thinking will only be increasing in value over the coming years.

The current trends in automation leave us with an image of society not too far from that seen in Pixar’s Wall-E, where people rarely work and just sits in front of screens all day. However one thing that every single person in that movie is doing is constantly consuming digital content on those screens. While it is clearly an animated film with a PG narrative, it does present an imaginable future that accelerates many of humanities current trends. With more leisure time there is greater demand for content, and already in recent years we have seen a massive uptick in independent media as consumers are choosing to overlook financial metrics of “quality” in favor of things that are different, innovative and compelling. This is the beginning of a trend that would hypothetically allow for a completely sustainable digital economy as our physical needs are completely automated. An opponent may be able to site projects such as Google deep dream and other creative computing projects that have written symphonies and original paintings. However AI only has the capacity to replicate products of styles it has been able to analyze, and even as the quality of those products will increase over the coming years, it will never be able to come up with the original and creative ideas that drive the marketplace of independent media.

The Internet has made this “creative economy” more feasible than ever, and the last decade of development has allowed for this industry to open its gates to an unprecedented number of entrepreneurs. Services like Soundcloud, Spotify, Steam, Netflix and others have allowed for independent content creators to distribute their products to a larger audience at an unprecedented rate. The benefit of this is that it is reversing many of the negative effects of corporate monopolization over the past few decades. In every merger and buy out more and more people get laid off and cannot compete with the now even more firmly entrenched industry. Through web distribution platforms and streaming service many of these conventions have gone to the wayside and more people than ever before are putting food on the table through the creative economy. The US Bureau of Statistics showed that between May 2003 and May 2012 the number of full-time independent musicians rose from 300 to 1830 as the number of label employed musicians dropped from 880 to 190. (Masnick) Regardless whether the industry is bringing in more total money for a few at the top, the true economic benefit is the amount it supports at the bottom, and with this considered these trends are undoubtedly positive ones.

These market shifts are surely encouraging and it is not unreasonable to think that these financial pressures will eventually influence tech innovation in a way that will revitalize many of the healthy social and cultural attributes of art that have largely been subverted by the monopolization of these industries. As these producers become increasingly centralized the products they are releasing are essentially the greatest common factor of progressively broader consumer groups. These products allow many to relate to them in at least a small sense, but very few to truly identify with them. Music, art, film and all other creative pursuits now have the opportunity to develop tight communities within American society that can nurture new and existing cultures around the country. The heightened exposure, yet reduced marginal profit of streaming services have already driven more independent musicians, artists, and film festivals to take their art on the road. These artists are allowing small venues to pop up and sustain themselves in small cities across the country while offering a level of intimacy and humanity to their product that even a travelling robot never could.

Humans have well documented psychological responses to music that have even proven to benefit medicine in treating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s in recent years. Through millennia of survival- driven evolution, the psychology, and resulting biology of the modern human is very tied in with many social influences. In a 1983 study comparing the effects of live vs. recorded music on cancer patients, it was found that those that attended live music reported a significant drop in tension, anxiety, physical discomfort and an increase in vigor and mood. (Bailey) There are clear benefits to increased heart activity, mental stimulation and synchronized brain waves, which have all been found in live concerts. (Ehrenberg) These effects are all intensified by increased heart synchrony with those around them, often mirroring increases in heart rate. A 2016 study measured heart synchrony in a fire walking ceremony comparing the heart synchrony of someone related to the firewalker, and someone who was a stranger to another firewalker. Of the two groups there was a clearly heightened level of synchronization of heart rate and beat in reaction to the walker in the people who had relations to them. (Ellamil et al) In a performance setting such as music, live art, theater, etc, the heart rate of the performer on stage is guiding the synchrony of the audience in a similar way, in turn driving the heightened sensations tracked in the aforementioned studies. This is an element that is critical to live music that can never be replicated by AI.

Journalism is another creative industry that is reportedly going to be replaced by AI in the eminent future but there are clear human elements that are unlikely to be replaced any time soon. The Gaurdian reports that 90% of journalistic articles will be written by computers by the year 2030. This is a surprising statistic at first glance but one that is not too unreasonable when one considers the nature of the writing. The writing style is inherently lacking in the human element with many sources priding themselves in being unbiased, just reporting the facts, and being the first to report the news. This emphasis on efficiency is one area where humans can never compete with the split second computing of a computer, especially if they are feeding the same information through the same guidelines. While this will clearly be an ever more prominent trend in this industry, it opens an even broader area of interest for independent news sources as people begin to desire the human elements of their news articles. Computers will have a difficult time creating narratives within the articles that hold the readers attention, and entirely lack the underlying tone driven by the author’s opinion that stimulates the viewpoints of the reader. Corporate journalism has become a form of labor rather than the craft it once was, and we are already seeing trends towards online news sources such as the Huffington post who shamelessly express opinions and viewpoints driving dialogue amongst its readers and the rest of the independent industry. The introduction of AI into in this workforce will only increase this trend towards independent media as the decreasing humanity in journalistic writing already has.

Another aspect of AI in journalism that is already extremely prevalent is the use of machine learning to process user data through things like Google visits and Facebook clicks. This creates what has been dubbed a “filter bubble”, and it has already shown the extreme problems it creates in its influence on society. This term broke out into American thought most prominently after the Trump election with the New York Times blaming it for the election result the next day, Wired reporting that it was “Destroying Democracy” the next week and an MIT study confirming it’s influence within a month. New York Times journalist Amanda Hess describes this software as creating “personalized feedback loops”, trapping their visibility within the confines of specific news sources, types of events and political ideologies. While Republicans seem generally more apt to read opposing articles and seek confrontation online, Democrats seemed particularly caught up in the “self affirmation” of seeking news articles and sources that conformed to their scope of belief. This caused this group of the population to become so convinced of their political strength going into the election that there seemed to be more an emphasis on posting the self aggrandizing articles that shame the opposition amongst the rest of their bubble, rather than creating dialogue on conservative comment sections or posting more moderate articles geared towards swaying the opposition. In doing so, the greatest proponents of the undoubtedly safer candidate became completely disconnected with the rest of America over time due to the way these actions are processed by machine learning software. If opinions are to be regarded as creative content, it is clear that AI is impeding on this crucial aspect of American Democracy with harrowing results. Tech companies are currently scrambling to find a way to accommodate this demand for opposing opinions because it is a crucial aspect of content distribution that conflicts with the very core of Artificial Intelligence and it’s current and foreseeable capabilities.

The influence of AI on the Trump election seems to exemplify a sort of “Invisible Hand” impact on society that reflects the unconscious nature of machine learning, similar to the subconscious self-interest that drives the concept from the human perspective. This “Robotic Hand” of AI seems to be gradually working against creative thought in all areas of society that it bears influence. By the laws of supply and demand its influence on corporate America will allow for individual producers of content to benefit off the increasing value of their work, however when a force such as this influences our political systems the results are more dire. Creative thinking is the antithesis of the more critical and quantitative processing of AI, so it seems natural that the candidate that reaped its benefits would lie more on this side of the spectrum. Trump has been gutting public arts programs across the country in favor of things such as America’s increasingly automated manufacturing sector. The National Center for Education Statistics found that American’s are disproportionally behind comparable nations in the Arts due to the already present lack of programs and funding in this country. (Miller) Trump plans to gut the few programs that do exist, with 19 federal organizations set to be defunded entirely. This includes the National Endowment for the Arts who’s funding reached every single county in the country in 2015, serving as the only arts programming in many rural areas of the country. (Fallon) With private interests and wealthy State and Local tax bases being the only remaining investors in Arts education the disparity in those who are creatively equipped will become even more divided on class lines.

To bring the issue full circle, the lack of arts education for lower class America is, in effect, undertraining the people who have the most potential value to this developing sector of the national economy. The current trends in creative entrepreneurship have largely been due to the heightened value of unique and provocative content in contrast to the broad ended products of the established industries. If this logic stands, people in poor and secluded areas of the country would have cultures, opinions, experiences and ways of thinking that would have developed remotely from American popular culture would have the most valuable creative potential. With the rise of the Internet, anyone with access can put their content on the web for anyone’s access but if this portion of the US’s population is not given the skills to develop their art, they will never be able to reach their full potential and contribute to this growing market.

The benefit of entrepreneurial marketplaces, as opposed to monopolies, is that the producers are in equal part consumers, creating an environment of steady growth as participants spend primarily within the market while earning a portion of their money from consumers outside of the market. Farmers traditionally would grow a single or few products and trade goods of equal value amongst themselves in a local marketplace to the point that they could all sustain themselves, and then export surplus that was not needed within the community. With the money earned from surplus investments can be made in their own product, or spending on less essential goods, which overtime creates more producers and consumers, either way creating value for the market. This system is infinitely sustainable if spending is kept largely within the localized market as long as the flow of money is inward (exports) or outward in the cases of investment in technologies that boost production. Every artist of whatever type needs inspiration to keep progressing their work, and very few creative entrepreneurs would draw inspiration from the monopolistic industry because it would be impossible to “beat them at their own game”. Therefore, these artists will need to buy at least an equal part of other independent producer’s art to sustain their own production, being that innovation drives the economic value of creative entrepreneurship.

Outside of basic human needs, which are becoming progressively automated and therefore cheaper relative to products requiring human labor, the market for creative entrepreneurship can grow sustainably and infinitely by the same principles of the agricultural market example. A national basic income would tax the increasingly few producers at a rate that is just enough to sustain the right amount of consumption from the jobless populace to keep the system going, supposing the corporations pay their taxes. However this will only keep the national market stagnant, with the only growth being from international trade to no benefit of the bulk of the population. The best future for America is to grow from within. Rather than the few at the top expanding their hold on markets around the world, we can nurture the independent markets we already have so that every single person in the nation has the potential to live a unique, fulfilling and purposeful life doing something they love while positively influencing the lives of those around them. The American dream is still alive, and with a little help it can be for the many rather than the few.

With the current environment of market shifts towards innovation it is clear that producers of creative content will increasingly become drivers of the economy as traditional jobs become progressively more automated. With this in mind I would urge everyone to start considering creative pursuits with greater deliberation and treat their existing hobbies with a higher degree of aspiration and attention. In addition I think there should be greater attention to the modern arts primary and secondary education in American schools across the economic spectrum, in contrast to the current trend of school systems rapidly dropping arts programs across the country. Overall, the future is bright we just need to learn to adapt to this changing world so as to live meaningful lives rather than falling into that which is easiest with a national standard income.

Works Cited
Bailey, Lucanne. “The Effects of Live Music versus Tape-Recorded Music on Hospitalized Cancer Patients .” Music Therapy, Oxford Academic, academic.oup.com/musictherapy/article/3/1/17/2756890.
Ehrenberg, Rachel. “Brain Waves of Concertgoers Sync up at Shows.” Science News, 28 Mar. 2018, www.sciencenews.org/article/brain-waves-concertgoers-sync-shows.
Ellamil, Melissa, et al. “Influences on and Measures of Unintentional Group Synchrony.” Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5101201/.
Fallon, Claire. “Trump’s Budget Proposes To Eliminate Arts Agencies, As Many Feared.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 Mar. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-actually-proposed-eliminating-arts-agencies-in-his-budget_us_58ca9b60e4b00705db4c9b2b.
Masnick, Mike. “Massive Growth In Independent Musicians & Singers Over The Past Decade.” Techdirt., Floor64, www.techdirt.com/articles/20130529/15560423243/massive-growth-independent-musicians-singers-over-past-decade.shtml.
Miller, Hayley. “U.S. Students Are Struggling In The Arts. Donald Trump’s Budget Would Make The Problem Worse.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 Apr. 2017, www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/us-students-struggling-arts-and-donald-trump_us_58ff678be4b0c46f0782711b.
Stanton, Andrew, director. Wall-E. Pixar, 27 June 2008.

Artificial Humanity

The film Ex Machina analyzes some very complex ethical issues regarding artificial intelligence. This topic is rising in prevalence in modern sci fi content and debates surrounding the development of robotics. As the questions have progressed beyond that of the Turing test, another’s perception of ones identity as robot or human, movies like Ex Machina have started tackling things like self awareness and genuine qualities of “humanity” on the part of the robot. This leads to a debate regarding what “humanity” really is. Recent film Blade Runner 2049 takes this question almost acting as a sequel to the ethical dilemma presented in Ex Machina. At one point in Ex Machina, Caleb cuts himself to discern whether he himself is a robot. In the world of Blade Runner many of the “replicants” are given memories so that they have no knowledge that they are anything but human. This is taken one step further when a replicant is given the ability to reproduce, resulting in a child that grows and develops physically and intellectually like any other human. This adds a whole new level to the debate. The Turing test established whether another human could identify a robot, Ex Machina and Blade Runner touch on a robots ability to identify themselves, now the birth of a child from a synthetically created being begs the question what does it mean to be human at all?

In Ex Machina the deceptivity of Caleb seems to be the last nail in the coffin in determining whether Ava is self interested and capable of complex and long sighted thoughts, rather than following actions and commands. This seems like a step towards basic humanity and human personality. However it is lacking the sympathetic and socially aware traits that guide humanity to an elevated status from just personhood. In Blade Runner run away replicants would often live together and look out for others like them, showing a group identity that starts to reach another level closer to humanity. That said they see themselves as separate from humans, which infringes on their ability to sympathize and reason with many of the humans that want to help. I think that the offspring of the two replicants in the movie has the potential for true AI humanity, because it can identify with the greater world and the experiences of both sides. Even though this is the product of a synthetically created being, it still has the potential for true humanity, or at least begs the question. It is relatable to many of the current ethical debates around lab made children and manipulated DNA. I think that there is no question of a humans “humanity” if though they were produced artificially.

These ethical debates in modern Sci Fi are much more relevant than as merely philosophical movie plots. The discussion and conclusions that these movies draw and move us towards as society influence how robots and AI develop. This is either in an abstract sense as an influence on consumer demand, or in a more direct way as it effects the innovators in the field. This movie and the questions it tackles is a perfect example of the intersection between Technology and Society.

 

 

Will AI take over our Jobs?

Since the beginning of robots or AI (artificial intelligence), there has always been a worry of them having a mind of their own and taking over human life. Well, not quite that bad but robots may be taking over a key component to our lives, work. Not just manual labor either, AI is constantly growing and getting stronger. Of course the whole point in creating such technologies was to make our lives easier, but now there is a worry that these time-saving technologies could and have developed enough that they could take millions of jobs. A man by the name of Kai-Fu Lee who is a massive techy in China is also the founder of a venture capitalist firm called Sinovation, was interviewed by CNBC (CNBC). In the interview we see it obvious that Kai-Fu Lee is a massive believer in the fact that AI will confiscate many jobs, “These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50 percent of human jobs,” (CNBC). Lee believes this new age of artificial intelligence will be a huge impact on all of human life. In my opinion, I don’t believe we should be giving away our jobs to AI, and I do not believe 50% of humans out of jobs is beneficial for a working society, although that is not how Kai-Fu Lee feels. Later on in his previous quote he continues his stance, “[AI will] create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty,” (CNBC). Now, I am sure that his argument would be much stronger than my own and most definitely has more ethos, though my main point of confusion in all of this is are people still remembering we are human. If we let AI take us too far we become the machine. Continue reading

Entrepreneurship in the Automated World

As advanced civilization crosses the threshold into an era of extensive automation we are found with a greater degree of leisure time, but also a decreasing demand for both intellectual and manual labor. This trend has inspired many economic, political and ethical questions surrounding many of the proposed solution. Developments in Science and Technology have a direct impact on Society as a whole, but if we are left with a nation without discretionary consumerism creative innovation will slow dramatically. The most popular solution is a national basic income so that people can meet a baseline standard of living, however this proposal carries its own set of issues. This begs the question; can modern automation coexist with the free market that fostered its development?

In a World Economic Forum article Kathleen Elkin cites the Oxford study, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible are Jobs to Computerization,” which predicts that 47% of US jobs could be automated within one to two decades.” The author states, “It’s no longer just the “dangerous, dirty, and dull” jobs on the block. Technology is also poised to replace white-collar positions, like lawyers, reporters, and financial analysts, to name a few.” With this said, Entrepreneurship in America is at it’s highest rate in decades. Creative thinking would have to be the one thing that computers can never replace, and if one were to think of mental capacity on the basis of supply and demand it would seem that innovative thinking will only be increasing in value over the coming years. That said the course of technology at the moment allows for many of the most creative thinkers to find ways to either digitally or physically automate different industries and markets at massive gains to them. However all predictions point that the majority of industries will be entirely automated in the not too far future.

This leaves us with an image of society not too far from that seen in movies like Wall-E, where no one does any work and just sits in front of screens all day. However one thing that every single person in that movie is doing is constantly consuming digital content on those screens. With more leisure time there is greater demand for content, and even in recent years we have seen a massive uptick in independent media as consumers are choosing to overlook financial metrics of “quality” in favor of things that are different, innovative and compelling. This is the beginning of a trend that would hypothetically allow for a completely sustainable digital economy as our physical needs are completely automated. An opponent may be able to site projects such as Google deep dream and other creative computing projects that have written symphonies and original paintings. However AI only has the capacity to replicate products of styles it has been able to analyze, and even as the quality of those products will increase over the coming years, it will never be able to come up with the original and creative ideas that drive the marketplace of independent media.

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