The Northside Festival

This Thursday through Sunday, The Northside Festival will celebrate its 7th year. Borrowing from South by Southwest, they will run three tracks - music, innovation and film - at various venues on the north side of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. As a Williamsburg native, I've enjoyed watching this event grow and this year will be its biggest yet. For the past few months, Alison Bryce at Northside Media and I have collaborated on designing a few of the panels for the innovation track. On Friday at 2pm at Brooklyn Brewery, I'll be moderating one of these panels entitled "Artificial Intelligence and its Discontents" with some of the most exciting and inspirational entrepreneurs working with artificial intelligence today. Below is an outline for that talk, still a work in progress. Please leave any ideas or suggestions in the comments. What do you think of artificial intelligence?

Dennis Mortensen, x dot ai
Matthew Zeiler, Clarifai
Pascal Kaufmann, Starmind
James Hughes, Exec Dir at Instit for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Author of Citizen Cyborg

Innovation of AI

Q1: What does AI mean to each of you and how are you using it with respective products?
A1: All (~5 mins)

Q2: Moore’s Law stated in 1965 that number of components per integrated circuit (and therefore, computing power) would double every 18-24 months. This has basically held true for the past 50 years. Does Moore’s Law apply to AI? Is there a linear relationship and, if so, what will the world look like in another 50?
A2: All (~5 mins)

Q3 Pre-amble:
NPR: “…Advances in artificial intelligence are helping doctors diagnose disease; new sensors are making it possible to drive cars more safely; digitization is delivering knowledge and entertainment more widely than ever; and mobile networks are interconnecting the planet’s population for the first time ever. The digital revolution is the best economic news on the planet."

McKinsey: By 2025, McKinsey estimates "digital talent platforms could add $2.7 trillion a year to global gross domestic product. And the digital tools could benefit as many as 540 million people in various ways, including better matches of their skills with jobs, higher wages, and shorter stints of unemployment."

Q3: What are the biggest opportunities enabled by AI, outside of the areas where each of you are focused?
A3: All (~5-10 mins)

AI Replacing Humans

Q4 Pre-amble: The Economist: For a job to be replaced by computers, it helps if the task is highly routine. Hence, demise of production-line jobs and bookkeeping go to robots and spreadsheets (though I’d argue spreadsheets don’t operate on their own). David Autor at MIT says “the mere fact that a job can be automated does not mean it will be; relative costs matter.”

Q4: What types of jobs are most likely to be replaced by machines first? What jobs are your products replacing and how far along are you in fully replacing humans for those assigned tasks?
A4: Matt, Dennis (~5-10 mins)

Risks and Existential Threats

Q5 Pre-amble:
John Maynard Keynes wrote essay in 1930 “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”. He was concerned about a “new disease called technological unemployment - due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.” For most of past century, doubting the economic benefits of technology was considered foolish and luddite (ludditious?). **Incidentally, the term luddite comes from 19th century textile workers who smashed the machines taking their jobs.

Larry Summers recent speech: "in 1960s 1 in 20 men in prime earning years of 25 to 60 wasn’t working. In 10 years, he thinks it could be 1 in 7. One sign that “technical change is increasingly taking the form of capital that effectively substitutes for labour."

Q5: Is AI poised to drastically improve productivity or render humans obsolete and unemployed?
A5: All, free flow. (~5-10 mins)

Q6 Pre-amble:
From 2000-2010, no net new US jobs were created. No decade in postwar period produced less than 20% increase. Even the 1970s generated 27% increase in jobs. US economy needs to create 1mm jobs per year to keep up with growth of workforce. 10mm missing jobs that should have been created and never showed up. Income discrepancy at levels not seen since 1929. Productivity increases that went to workers pockets in 1950s now go to management. Share of income going to labor vs capital has shifted. Martin Ford in Rise of The Robots: “Before, machines were tools that increased productivity of workers. Now, machines are turning into workers and line between labor and capital is blurring like never before. This is all driven by relentless acceleration in computing power."

Q6: Industrial Revolution vs the Robot Revolution? (Steam engine vs microprocessor? Pick Axes vs Robots?) What are the primary differences between these two economic shifts and will AI be as historically significant?
A6: All, free flow. (~5-10 mins)

Q7 Pre-amble:
In Citizen Cyborg, James calls on Transhumanist forces to join the fight in making human enhancement seem less freakish and gain government support. (Is that accurate? If not, correct me) “Democratic Transhumanism” sounds to me like the love child of Karl Marx and Gordon Moore.
Q7: What are the existential considerations? What is the appropriate regulatory response / approach?
A7: James goes first and leads conversation. (~5-10 mins)

By Josh Guttman