INTERVIEW/ Yuval Noah Harari: Mankind still has time to stop rule by computer algorithms

Nobody knows today what the job market would look like in 30 years. It means that nobody knows what to teach children today in school because we don’t know what skills they will need.

Maybe you still have a human as prime minister, a human as president. But actually, the real power is the algorithm because the algorithm comes to the president and says, “Hey, Mr. President, we are facing a financial disaster.”

The president says, “Why?” The AI says, “Well, you’re a human; you can’t understand. I gathered 36 trillion bits of data. I analyzed them, and I am telling you, if we don’t take action, by tomorrow morning, everything will collapse.”

The president says, “OK, so what should we do?” The AI says, “OK, you have option one, option two, option three.”

And the president says, “Why are these the three options? Why not this?”

The AI says: “Oh, you’re a human; you can’t understand. I analyzed the potential impact of doing this and doing that, and I can tell you these are the three options. But I can’t explain to you why because to understand this you need to go over 36 trillion bits of data, and you can’t; you’re a human.”

Some people have this extreme vision that the robots will come and take all the jobs. I think this is unlikely. Some jobs will disappear. Some new jobs will appear. A lot of jobs will change their nature, their characteristic.

Let’s say you are a bus driver and you lost your job because they have a self-driving vehicle. But there is a new job in designing vehicles or in writing software. Now, how do you retrain a 40-year-old bus driver to be a software engineer?

But what about poorer countries? Let’s say countries like Bangladesh or Honduras close down all the factories because now it’s cheaper to produce shirts in Japan or in Germany, and there is a demand for software engineers. You can’t just transform millions of Bangladeshi textile workers into software engineers. It takes a lot of time and money.


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