Artificial Intelligence: Is Inequlity Just One Issue among Many?

artificial intelligence

Yuval Harari ‘s new book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow urges us to face up to our new technological powers to create and reconstruct life. In the course of that book there is perforce a discussion of articial intelligence and its probable domination by those who have aggregated great wealth.  Only they will have the capability to afford the luxuries flowing from our new technological creations.

That discussion propelled me to rethink the disagreement between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton about optimal talking points for their campaigns. Senator Sanders was famously focused on inequality as the meta-issue motivating his standard stump speeches. Only rarely did he move beyond those issues that seem to bear little link to inequality.

Secretary Clinton rarely overlooked an opportunity to blast Sanders’ focus on a single issue. While granting the importance of the issue, she chose to organize her comments around an immense number of policies, almost as if to say that the person with the biggest list of probable policies is ipso facto the best-prepared candidate.

Of course, it is always difficult to discern whether a political candidate believes in the virtue of X, or whether she is touting X for opportunistic reasons. But as I thought about their sniping at each other for their divergent approaches to candidacy for the Presidency, I found myself questioning her logic in this regard.

The ramifications of an issue like inequality do seem to extend into the implications of almost every other issue facing the species. Whether we are concerned about health care, loss of privacy, women’s reproductive rights, macroeconomic stability, costs of education, or the growth of the private security indistry, proposed solutions have distributional effects, AND the capability of citizens to partake of any “solution” frequently depend on the extent of their wealth.

So the next time you think about the distributional impacts of artifical intelligence or any other technological change, you might want to consider the possibility that the single issue candidate might be more insightful than the alternative candidate with 55 Internet pages enumerating a cascade of policy proposals.

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