Paul Garbarino is an economist in the Office of
Employment and Unemployment Statistics, U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The artificial intelligence storm is upon us: are we
Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will
Transform Everything. By Martin Ford. New York, NY:
Hachette Book Group, Inc., 2021, 311 pp., $30.00
Star Trek or The Matrix—which fictional future would you
rather live in? At the conclusion of his 2021 book, Rule of
the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform
Everything, futurist Martin Ford juxtaposes these starkly
different sci-fi universes, not just for dramatic effect but also
as an illustration of where human society may be headed.
In Star Trek, Earth is a near-perfect utopia, where poverty
and most disease are absent, and humanity’s only
concerns revolve around space exploration and alien
adversaries. But in The Matrix, manmade intelligent
machines enslave most of humanity, confining the few
remaining free people to a dystopian, destitute world.
Reducing humanity’s future to this dichotomy is extreme,
but it compellingly captures Ford’s visions of both the
benevolent and malevolent effects that robotic
technological advancements and artificial intelligence (AI)
will have on the world.
In 2015, Ford rattled the economics and technology fields
with his exalted book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and
the Threat of a Jobless Future. In that book, Ford
admonished readers that a technological storm is
approaching—if not already here—and that millions of
workers around the globe are in its wake. He warned that
potentially half of all jobs could be automated away, going
so far as to suggest that the most skilled, highest paying
jobs, such as those of surgeons and lawyers, could be the
most vulnerable to replacement by robots and computers.
The speed of technological and social change is nearly
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incomprehensible, and the in