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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/10/18

Think Inequality Is Bad Now? Wait Until AI Takes Over

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How did we get here, to a place where someone could seriously suggest artificial intelligence is something we should be worried about? To anyone simply running around conducting business as usual (read: surviving), this concern isn't at the top of the list. But to those actually paying attention (the Elon Musk s of the world), it's clear that artificial intelligence will pose a problem for the impoverished people of the world.

So far, people have used capitalism to push us back towards the way things were before we broke from the system of barons, royalty, knights, serfs, and peasants. Capital is now concentrated in the hands of the few just as land was concentrated in the hands of the few during the days of feudalism.

Worldwide, inequality is staggering: 8.6 percent of people have 85.6 percent of the wealth. Between 1963 and 2016 in America , the top 1 percent grew 7 times wealthier, while the bottom 10 percent went from breaking even to being in debt -- the bottom 10 percent owe an average of $1000 per household.

Still, the middle class doubled their wealth between '63 and 2016. They, however, aren't among the 8.6 percent who own 85.6 percent of the wealth, and many middle class American citizens are retired. They don't need jobs and are riding out the rest of their lives on retirement savings and pensions.

Something happened to business between '63 and 2016. It became more computer-driven, and enterprises at the forefront of technology reaped the rewards. Today, Amazon, Google, and Apple are the most powerful and wealthy companies in the world. At the same time, CEO payhas skyrocketed. In the 1950s, the average CEO made 20 times more than the average employee; now, CEOs make 361 times more than workers.

Why? One big reason is big data. The market for people's data, and for the analytics tech that processes it, went from $3.2 billion in 2010 to an estimated $34 billion in 2017. Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon figured out how to use data to milk money from customers. At the same time, CEOs and other executives raised their own salaries while keeping employee wages relatively flat. The data of the many fills the pockets of the few, and the average person makes no money from their data. This will escalate as artificial intelligence becomes more complex. At higher and higher levels of efficiency, AI will continue to line consumers up in categories and milk them of their money.

Big business is also using data to inform hiring decisions. Predictive analytics technology is part of deep learning, a technique that artificial intelligence uses to predict who will buy what, and who will fit well with a company.

Here's the thing: if you're hoping to find a job right now in order to rise through the ranks and someday be at least middle class, you can customize your CV based on a job description. You're customizing it so that a human being can look at it and appreciate your little touches. Once deep learning, predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence inform hiring decisions, you will need to craft your CV based on what an AI program is looking for. If an AI is looking for candidates that have achieved a certain level of education, the program will automatically rule out your resume if you don't meet that requirement. A human, on the other hand, can look at a CV and make an exception based on just how great the rest of it is.

On top of that, 400 to 800 million jobswill be automated by 2030. These will be entry-level and middle-management jobs. Therefore, when you apply for a corporate job after 2030, it's more likely that that job will be an upper-level, executive position, and there are very few of those available.

Richer people are able to afford more prestigious levels of education. A rich person's CV can easily meet the requirements an AI recruiter is looking for.

I'm not just speculating about all of this. Earlier this year, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a report stating, "Inequality is one of the main challenges posed by the proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and other forms of worker-replacing technological progress." Ironically, you have to be able to pay to access the report.

Data is knowledge and knowledge is power. Right now, we pay for the internet so that companies can collect our data and make even more money from us. As AI gets more powerful, our data will feed a powerful force for inequality. AI isn't independent -- it does what programmers tell it to do. In turn, programmers do what executives tell them to do. Executives want to get richer, and they decide their own salaries. If they didn't, they wouldn't earn 361 times more than the average worker.

The only choice is for the lower classes to gain more knowledge about AI, learn programming, learn how to do things AI can't do, and vote consistently for politicians who want to regulate big data and AI. Right now, Europe has a GDPR law that doesn't allow companies to make money off of EU citizen data unless the citizen gives permission. Why doesn't America have such a law? The reason is simple: we don't have the right representatives in office.

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