In chapter 6, Kai-fu Lee gets to the subject of the damage that AI will do. He says that all of the fantasies about AI destroying humanity because it will become too powerful are silly. And I agree with him.
The worst damage from AI, says Lee, is the destruction of many jobs, exploding inequality, and the transformation of some countries into irredeemable, backwards hellholes that have no hope of ever catching up.
I agree with Lee that this is a danger of developing AI capabilities.
I don’t agree, however, that being displaced out of productive life, in his scenario, is bad.
In the world he described, the “lucky” minority that has jobs and incomes and participates in “the digital utopia” are the saddest, most pathetic little bastards the world has ever seen. Everything that makes life worth living is taken from them. They are turned into worse than animals. They are things. And not even things of the highest order.
Lee is sincerely sorry for the losers who will not be able to find employment and, hence, will lose access to the “wonders of AI,” as he describes them. But hey, what’s more valuable, having a shopping cart recognize your face and lecture you gently on what you should be eating and drinking or having a subjectivity, an interiority, a right to exist unobserved, unknown, unmessed with, and unmodified?
Life where you are constantly monitored and tinkered with “for the sake of others’ improved control of you” (Zuboff) isn’t really life. It’s a horror show. On some level, Lee recognizes this. Psychiatrists, he says, will definitely be in huge demand in the AI world, and their work would never be outsourced to technology.