Artificial Intelligence McKinsey

Ted Chiang, the New Yorker:

Today, we find ourselves in a situation in which technology has become conflated with capitalism, which has in turn become conflated with the very notion of progress. If you try to criticize capitalism, you are accused of opposing both technology and progress. But what does progress even mean, if it doesn’t include better lives for people who work? What is the point of greater efficiency, if the money being saved isn’t going anywhere except into shareholders’ bank accounts? We should all strive to be Luddites, because we should all be more concerned with economic justice than with increasing the private accumulation of capital. We need to be able to criticize harmful uses of technology — and those include uses that benefit shareholders over workers — without being described as opponents of technology.

The whole article is terrific — as the headline alludes to, an imagining of artificial intelligence technologies performing a sort of McKinsey-like role in executing the worst impulses of our economic system — but this paragraph is damn near perfect.

Not too long ago, in the era of gadget blogs and technology enthusiasm gone mainstream, there was a specific kind of optimism where every new product or service was imagined as beneficial. Tides turned, and criticism is the current default position. I think that is a healthier and more realistic way of viewing this market, even as it feels more negative. What good is thinking about new technologies if they are not given adequate context? We have decades of personal computing to draw from, plus hundreds of years of efficiency gains. On the cusp of another vast transformation, we should put that knowledge to use.