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May 3, 2024 | Artificial Intelligence is an Existential Threat to Humans

Hilliard MacBeth

Author of "When the Bubble Bursts: Surviving the Canadian Real Estate Crash"

The excitement and hype regarding Artificial Intelligence continues to influence stock markets positively. While most people have not yet seen much impact on their lives, billions of dollars are being committed by a multitude of companies who wish to compete for a top spot in the future of AI.

Will AI meet current expectations? Is AI a threat to human survival?

Artificial intelligence, or machine learning, is expected to transform our lives. This reminds me of the period in the late 1990s when everyone was expecting an internet-related boom in the economy and share values on the stock market. While the internet has indeed changed our lives in the last twenty-five years it did not happen as quickly as we expected. Investment hype then was followed by a massive stock market correction which lasted until the end of 2002, with some successful companies like Amazon losing 90 percent of their value. Other companies disappeared entirely.

But in spite of the stock market’s excessive exuberance in 1999, real change did come a few years later.

It is mind boggling to be reminded that the iPhone is only seventeen years old, having first appeared in 2007. At that time Nokia, Motorola and Blackberry were the market leaders in basic phones.  But soon after its introduction the iPhone dominated the U.S. market for personal communications devices.

Now AI threatens to transform our lives in a more fundamental way, according to some. Elon Musk, who was an early pioneer as co-founder of OpenAI, warned last November that AI could be the end of humanity. He thinks that soon machines powered by AI will be smarter than humans.

UBS strategist Andrew Garthwaite wrote a short piece recently on some of the coming changes that AI could bring.

He quotes Amara’s Law — after Roy Amara, an American futurist:

“We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.”

There are very few intuitive descriptions of how AI will be used. Garthwaite cites a few.

AI is already impacting “white collar” workers. The rate of adoption there is very fast as the infrastructure is already in place in the form of computers.

Garthwaite mentions using AI in responding to emails in an insurance company. Productivity improvements in similar sectors can be as high as 40 percent, meaning fewer jobs.

White collar jobs are in the services sector, the largest sector in the GDP with the largest number of jobs.

He also mentions using AI in scientific and medical research, citing evidence of much higher speeds in discovery times. In Physics, AI could halve the time needed to find new battery compounds.

But the examples mentioned give only a small hint of where AI is heading and undoubtedly miss the mark. The most likely outcome is that humans will be very surprised at what happens, assuming that AI machines will allow humans to exist long enough for them to see that future.

Hilliard MacBeth

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson Wealth or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them, having regard to their own particular circumstances.. Richardson Wealth is a member of Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Richardson Wealth is a trademark by its respective owners used under license by Richardson Wealth.

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