In an opinion note made to The Guardian, the theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking wrote about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and automation to the middle-class workers around the world.

In the note called “This is the most dangerous time for our planet,” Hawking explains how the automation of jobs might put in danger the stability of middle-class families and their economic safety. He said that this human job destruction, especially in the manufacturing industry, could lead to the worsening of inequality around the world, alongside fomenting the possibilities of a social and political convulsion. The unemployment and uncertainty of the working class could represent a tense situation in the global environment.

Professor Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking in Zero Gravity NASA. Image credit: Wikimedia.

“The rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining,” Hawking said while explaining the upcoming accented inequality. “The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

The rise of AI and automation

Oxford University, in collaboration with Citibank, issued a report earlier this year explaining how this technology phenomenon would affect the global economy and international business. They predicted that about 47 percent of the jobs currently existing in the United States are at risk of automation.

In the United Kingdom the cipher lowers to 35 percent, but in China, the number is impressively high, with 77 percent of the current human jobs being in danger of automation. The average among OECD countries is 57 percent.

Three of the top 10 largest employers in the world are already replacing human jobs with robots. Foxconn, a vital manufacturer that works for both Apple and Google, is replacing 60,000 of their jobs with robots. Walmart, the third largest employer with over 2.1 million workers around the world, is willing to replace their stock-checkers with flying drones.

The world’s largest employer, the U.S. Department of Defense, is currently operating the biggest fleet of uncrewed aerial vehicles (drones mostly).

The World Economic Forum said in a statement earlier this year that nearly 5 million jobs could be destroyed globally in 2020. IBM has stated that they created a software that is better at detecting cancer than humans. Even journalism is being affected because this year The Associated Press is using Artificial Intelligence to write company’s inside results.

This technologic evolution will consequently harm the financial structure of the middle class and accelerate global inequality, Hawking assures. For this reason, people are searching for a new deal or a new system that could be represented on phenomena like Brexit and Trump.

Searching for a new way: Populism

Hawking explained how all this economic circumstance is being materialized in the rise of the right-wing and populist leaders.

He warns that people have shown to elites that they are not longer representing the interests and values of the majority. According to Hawking, the elites have to respond to their demands and cannot, by any circumstance, stay passive in front of populist and demagogue leaders.

The physicist, in fact, called President-elect Donald Trump a “demagogue,” earlier this year.

Professor Stephen Hawking
Professor Hawking warned earlier this year that Brexit meant a significant step back to Britain science development and that the electorate mistrusted all the artist, politics, and celebrities who actively said that leaving the European Union was the best choice. Image credit: NASA.

“Whatever we might think about the decision by the British electorate to reject membership of the European Union and by the American public to embrace Donald Trump as their next president, there is no doubt in the minds of commentators that this was a cry of anger by people who felt they had been abandoned by their leaders,” Hawking said about Trump-Brexit electoral phenomenon.

How to stop the mayhem

Hawking proceeds to advise leaders of nations around the world, and all humankind in general, that the only way out is working together. He lists all the major problems that the species is encountering, like “climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans,” and then explains that people have developed technology to destroy the world but until now they have not figure out how to escape from it.

“We need to break down, not build up, barriers within and between nations. If we are to stand a chance of doing that, the world’s leaders need to acknowledge that they have failed and are failing the many. With resources increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, we are going to have to learn to share far more than at present,” Hawking strongly recommended.

About immigration, he encouraged governments around the world to make life sustainable in every person’s home country. He stated that global development is the only way out to immigration problems and crisis in general. But to accomplish that development, in every possible way, his voice, he says, must be supported by the elites “from London to Harvard; from Cambridge to Hollywood”.

Source: The Guardian