Artificial intelligence is the challenge of the future

Artificial Intelligence

The world economy is changing rapidly, and the United States and China are the primary actors in promoting change. For the US, that has long been the case. Following the disruptions of World War II, the United States led in the development of a liberal world order. Every country that was part of it, benefited from it. However a disproportionate share of the economic gains went to countries other than the United States. That was inevitable and morally right because the US homeland survived the conflict without loss and had much gain. Industrial countries were major beneficiaries. Many developing countries also benefited. However, the greatest achievement of the liberal order was the incorporation of the Chinese economy. That permitted hundreds of millions of people to emerge from poverty.

The liberal system had weaknesses. It was inadequate in countering government efforts to abuse the trading system. France made efforts in that direction but were not very capable. The Japanese, however, were masters. They created a state-led catch-up model that worked to perfection, and was subsequently copied by South Korea, Taiwan, and China. With some discomfort, the system adjusted to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, but could not adjust to China because of its immense size. Thus China created pressures that fundamentally undermined that order.

For the United States, the end to its dominant position was inevitable as other countries caught up to the US in productivity and their self confidence was restored. Also the US failed to compensate the losers in our population from the negative consequences to them from globalization. The huge benefits of globalization to our society provided sufficient resources to make such transfers, but the political will was never mobilized. This contributed to the 2016 election results.

Along with an international trading system in disarray, other major challenges include global warming, mass migration of peoples, and the mal distribution of income within countries. However, the most disruptive event yet to be faced is the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into daily lives. Technical change has always been disruptive, even more than globalization, but AI is a dimension greater. Economic growth will be greatly stimulated, but the upheaval will be huge. The US need not reproduce the mistakes and inattention of the past, and it must seek its own solutions without help to or from other countries.