In a recent Fortune interview, renowned futurist and director at Google Ray Kurzweil says as a response to a question about AI impact on jobs: “Well, don’t worry, for every job we eliminate, we’re going to create more jobs at the top of the skill ladder.”
There is a huge flaw in this argument!
Let’s do a thought experiment:
Let’s pretend you are the world’s leading Forensic Accountant. You find stuff in accounting that nobody else is able to. As any expert, you are guided just as much by instinct honed from years of experience – as rational thought and explicit knowledge. You can smell something’s wrong long before you can point out what.
As the world’s leading Forensic Accountant, you’ll be the last person to be rendered obsolete by AI. AI might take over a lot of your tasks, but the instinct honed from decades of experience is pretty hard to replicate. It might eventually be taken over, but there is a lot of other tasks and skills that will go before that.
At one point, 70% of accounting tasks might be taken over by AI. You are still the world’s foremost forensic accountant. But, who will be the world’s best after you?
With 70% taken over by AI, all the routine tasks gone, nobody is getting the experience – nobody is honing their instincts on the routine tasks. You are the last great forensic accountant because nobody behind you needs to do the routine tasks anymore – thus they will never reach your level, because there is a huge gap from the bottom to nearly the top of the skill ladder.
You may create the need for more jobs at the top of the skill ladder. But with AIs filling the ladder and not climbing – there is no way for humans to climb to the top where they are needed.
This is the flaw. Ultimately, it might make society dumber as all our experts die before AI can fully replace them.