Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2015
I have taught Artificial Intelligence (AI) for 3 decades at a major university. Until about 10 years ago, whenever someone worried about the effect of intelligent software/hardware destroying future jobs, I would always give my "buggy whip" argument, which goes like this:

"When the automobile was invented it DID destroy many jobs. Makers of buggy whips and horse troughs were put out of business. But many more NEW jobs were created to replace those older jobs. Witness all the gas stations, auto mechanic shops, car factories, etc."

About 8 years ago I lost faith in the buggy whip argument. I realized that, as the technology of AI advanced, a point would be reached in which intelligent software and general-purpose robots could perform all tasks (both mental and physical) that are currently achievable only by highly educated humans. Once one intelligent robot exists with a high level of general intelligence, it can be mass produced. There have been many advances in AI in recent years (in neural networks, planning and learning systems). Machine learning systems can now learn a number of complex cognitive tasks simply by observing the past performance of human experts.

I have always been an admirer of the combination of modern capitalism and (relatively) free markets as the major drivers of wealth. However, modern capitalism (with its corporations, stock and dividends) is less than a few centuries old. There is no reason to believe that it must last forever. Its "reign" over older economic systems may well end abruptly in the near future.

At one time I toyed with writing a book about my concerns regarding intelligent automation and its future effect on political and economic systems but Martin Ford has a done a 100-times better job that I could have ever done. His book is very persuasive in pointing out why the "buggy whip" argument will cease to remain persuasive.

I only have two complaints about Ford's book: (a) the title sounds a bit too much like a title for a pulp-fiction work and so I fear that not enough people will read it and (b) the first 75 pages consist of a standard summary of current economic facts and principles and so I fear that some readers may quit reading his book before they get to the really interesting parts, which in my opinion, start after page 75.
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