Clouds Ahead: AI Revisited

Personal Money Planning |

By Gary Silverman, CFP®

A couple weeks ago, in this smack-you-with-a-fish series written to my readers, we looked at how AI (Artificial Intelligence) changed me. Specifically, how my using AI to create a short biography of myself ended up having truths, half-truths, and lies all wrapped up in a well-written presentation. You may have gotten the idea that I think AI should not be taken seriously.

You’d be wrong.

AI is already causing disruptions. Take the Hollywood writer and actor strikes. They are worried about two things. First, that AI will be used to copy their work and manipulate it to create new works—without any compensation to the original folks. The other worry is that AI will create entirely new works, competing with humans for a fraction of the cost—putting many creative and talented people out of work.

These are both valid concerns.

The first issue is a bit easier to solve—create a fair revenue-sharing agreement so that individuals are compensated each time the AI uses their likeness in the algorithms. However, the latter issue of AI creating brand new content is more problematic. And the outcome of this second issue will likely have far-reaching effects for most of us.

When we began using machines in the fields and factories, it saved humans from tedious and sometimes difficult work. It also meant we needed to employ fewer people. That’s great if you own the business using the machines—it saves money. It’s also great if you are a consumer—you’ll pay less to buy those widgets. It is NOT great if you are the person who used to be employed and is now out of a job.

Even if the AI revolution ends up creating more jobs than it replaces, it is unlikely that most of the people whose jobs are being taken over will suddenly become programmers writing AI algorithms (not unlike the issues we faced in the US when factories began closing). And even if they did receive training, AI is starting to write its own algorithms.

The reaction so far has been to try and stop the onslaught of AI. Let’s take a moment to consider how well that worked with steam power, machines, computers, and all the other progressive moments in history.

If you watch black and white movies, you’ve seen scenes of typists on their manual typewriters spitting out reams of text. Or maybe you saw rooms of computers full of humans who did number-crunching at their desks accounting for the money flow in a large business.

Don’t see those anymore, do you?

The work our five employees do today would have taken twice as many employees 30 years ago when I founded the firm. That’s five workers I am not employing. Of course, back then, I didn’t need to hire a compliance or cybersecurity firm, nor did I need to pay the companies that create, update, and maintain the software which helps our business run smoothly. One could argue jobs created at those companies helped offset the others that were lost.

Whether net jobs are lost due to AI, I cannot say. Whether your job will be lost due to AI is something to think about, and I wish I had an answer for you. I’m sorry to smack you with this fish.

May God protect the innocents in Ukraine.