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Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence Hardcover – August 4, 2015
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Kaplan begins by offering the non scientific reader (me) a clear overview of the AI advances that are poised to make human workers obsolete--offering eye popping examples explaining how the pace of technology is destined to overwhelm the human landscape of life and work.
He then charts the changes that span FAR more than driverless cars. Mechanical robots (or what Kaplan calls "forged intelligences") will be more adept (and. of course, far more cost effective) than humans at performing every routine job from collecting our garbage to stocking our grocery shelves (and make those physical stores quaint relics of the past). "Synthetic intelligences" (machines that think and analyze information) will outwit humans at making complex diagnoses or writing legal briefs--automating out many of the hapless law school or medical students spending decades accumulating those mountainous student debts .
So far readers may be saying " I know all that stuff". Actually, you don't. The real gem of this book is that Kaplan CALCULATES how many people enter the workforce with those mountains of debt and compares their expected salaries. He analyzes the current employment situation for new law school grads and other "knowledge workers". He offers a wealth of data documenting how many jobs are going to be lost... beginning with that prime exemplar (AKA job wrecker), Amazon. I always wanted to know how Amazon evolved, the truth about this behemoth's business model, and how many jobs Amazon has automated out...Read more ›
Kaplan's background is the high-tech field, where he had responsibilities in a number of start-up companies. He is currently teaching at the Computer Science Department at Stanford, with a particular emphasis on the legal and ethical implications of artificial intelligence (AI). His book provides a background on AI, starting with the ambitious vision of John McCarthy in 1957. In numerous ways, computers are already "smarter" than people, so who needs the latter, as his title implies? The author also addresses income inequality - now somewhat of a "hot topic" - and how computers have facilitated the increasingly yawning gap between the haves and the have nots. He even did that straight line projection whereby all the wealth is concentrated in the hands on one person - and uses the same metaphor of ancient Egypt that I have considered. There is one Pharaoh, and the rest of us are busily building his pyramid, at least metaphorically.
To me the real value of the book are the numerous anecdotal chapters that relate some aspect of the increasing dominance of IT in the economy, with advantages to some, and disadvantages to others. Naturally there is a chapter on Jeff Bezos and Amazon. The data is what is truly important, and Bezos has been a master at realizing this, and implementing a business strategy based upon it.Read more ›
The weakest sections are when he discusses solutions to the inequality problems generated by advancing technology and wealth. Humans beings will be unevenly hindered by failing or outdated abilities and by the inadequate education of the working young.
His solutions to the inequality such as restructuring the tax code and the social security system seem well intentioned but entirely inadequate.
The book is certainly a worthwhile read and I give the author full credit for the effort. The best thing is probably that he describes the likely path of AI in a realistic way as it proceeds from ABS braking in cars to world domination.
Dr. Kaplan implicitly identifies and feels out an inventory control problem in vocational education: Universities are producing mis-educated students faster than the workforce can consume them, with obvious resulting inventory buildup (showing up in not stacks of widgets, but stacks of unemployed workers). [See Goldratt's "The Goal".] At the same time, new-technology jobs are projected to go begging, unfilled, due to the mis-allocation of inventory (students who could have learned X but are stuck at A instead). Dr. Kaplan's proposed solution to this structural economic problem is a type of Kanban: Employers should post requirements for future jobs, in the form of vocational training loan sponsorships. Only that many students should be allowed to take those vocational trainings, in a one-to-one relationship. Then demand will be supplied efficiently, and there will be less wastage (of lives, i.e. unemployment).
This is an interesting idea, headed in the right direction, which should be explored further. Its surface challenges (employers want to hire today, but it takes 1-4 years to train a skilled student; there is no meritocracy in choosing which single students get selected for sponsorship; employers have difficulty projecting future needs beyond the next few quarters) can be polished out in version 2.
Dr. Kaplan unfortunately ties this Kanban system in with an ill-fated scheme to create new ways for students to take out credit by explicitly mortgaging their future earnings.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The author has done a good job of thinking through the issues that will be facing us as AI becomes a part of our lives, our economy, and perhaps our governance.Published 9 hours ago by Gary
I was excited to read a book about technological breakthroughs and how to position myself and my children for the future. Read more
Jerry Kaplan has written a powerful, concise survey of many of the issues raised by the technological breakthroughs underway in machine intelligence and automation. Read morePublished 23 days ago by A. Howell
An engaging page-turner, addressing in a lay-man friendly way the potential and peril of advancements in computing, for the near and long-term future.Published 1 month ago by Trevor Leitch
Interesting and readable. Supporting evidence gets thin here and there.Published 3 months ago by MATTHEW LOHBIHLER
Brilliant read. Great attitude , The flow of words is fascinating..Published 3 months ago by Stuart Ezrailson
An easy read that provides valuable insights into what to expect from the near future.Published 3 months ago by STEVEN L INGLEBY
A clear and fast read about where we are and where we're going with wealth & technology's opportunities. Intelligently presented by a learned professional. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Mickey Long
Liked the first half; second half projections scary and not much " how to prepare"
Of interest to those who read economics - transitions a la Toeffler's 3rd Wave.