"Do you trust this computer?" AI comes after the middle-class professions, in a new documentary

When Elon Musk approves this meme, it usually causes a Twitter flutter. But this time, he's been pointing to a substantial documentary on the coming impact of AI, "Do You Trust This Computer" (fully embedded above, 1hr 18s long). 

Our A/UK agenda on automation, including AI, is that we want communities to be less paralysed in the face of its "onslaught" (as reported). And more willing to step up and make informed decisions about how we use it. So that AI "benefits the commonality", as the old (and misrepresented) Luddites used to say.

As Big Think reports, one of the documentary's striking elements is the way it depicts AI's automation of what were previously regarded as solid, expertise-based, professional jobs: 

The doc proposes that within 3 to 5 years there'll be an AI learning program that can understand the same way humans do, in an "I think therefore I am" kind of way.

It also proposes that people going into the medical fields, business fields, and even journalism (gulp!) fields might not have jobs.  Simply put: if you're expecting a 40-year career in radiology based on reading images, and reading an image takes about two minutes, well, AI can perform about a million of those in the time it took for you to read this sentence. 

In one particularly memorable scene, an obstetrician-gynecologist admits that his practice uses a robot to perform 150 hysterectomies a day, while the doc himself admits that he only performs about one of those hysterectomies a year.

Where else? Well, many information-intensive tasks in law seem to be eminently automatable. Futurism tells the story of a test between humans and an AI called "Lawgeex". They're competing on who can review, more effectively and quicker, simpler contracts (like Non-Disclosure-Agreements):

After two months of testing, the results were in: the AI finished the test with an average accuracy rating of 94 percent, while the lawyers achieved an average of 85 percent. The AI’s highest accuracy rating on an individual test was 100 percent, while the highest rating a human lawyer achieved on a single contract was 97 percent.

As far as accuracy goes, the study showed that humans can (for the most part) keep up with AI in reviewing contracts. The same couldn’t be said when it came to speed, however.

On average, the lawyers took 92 minutes to finish reviewing the contracts. The longest time taken by an individual lawyer was 156 minutes and the shortest 51 minutes.

LawGeex’s AI, on the other hand, only needed 26 seconds.

LawGeex's promo-cartoon video is actually very interesting, in that it animates what a legal contract reviewer might think of her job being largely replaced by an AI: "it frees my time for more strategic work". Good, if so. And the way that LawGeex works is that it quickly processes the standard text, but highlights anomalies when they appear - which the contract reviewer then responds to. These are classic industrial-era efficiency gains - yet applied to replace routine mental and cognitive tasks, rather than physical and craft.

The question is, as ever, what a company does with its existing humans on the payroll - does firing them become a strict cost saving? And if that's a prospect for hundreds of millions of info-processing human jobs, we come around again to the question of how we can collectively benefit from these technologies. 

Perhaps we increase incomes or reduce working hours for humans -  rather than simply return profits to company coffers, with the same humans as sheer casualties of a new system. (Or more entrepreneurially: how might we encourage more start-ups, who can be leaner and nimbler by relying on these new efficiencies?)

Watch out in the next few months for two new books (and interventions) from Douglas Rushkoff and Paul Mason - who will both be arguing strongly that we need to reassert human priorities in the face of automation (the former with his new book based on his Team Human podcast, and the latter's follow-up to PostCapitalism, titled Clear Bright Future (described as "a defence of radical humanism in the face of artificial intelligence and algorithmic control").

Looks like many of the old solid professions won't emerge unscathed from AI. But let's try to imagine better uses of our time, talents and empathy as an alternative.