Preserving human agency in the age of A(G)I

Krishna Kumar K
3 min readMar 25, 2023

If we think about our children’s future, there are many questions to ponder over. Among many others a key question is

  • What exactly will they be working on in the future ?

I’ve been an engineer and a product manager. Most of the work I have done and am doing is probably going to be automated in the next 10 years if not earlier.

Source

The development of AI is as fundamental as the creation of the microprocessor, the personal computer, the Internet, and the mobile phone. It will change the way people work, learn, travel, get health care, and communicate with each other. Entire industries will reorient around it. Businesses will distinguish themselves by how well they use it.

The Age of AI has begun — Bill Gates

This begs the question.

Do we still need to teach students fundamentals like mathematics and science ?

Few 10,000 years back humans could run longer than many animals and throw a spear at a herd of animals to hunt and gather food. Obviously these skills are only used as sports or exercise now and are not critical ones for survival.

Current labor market (ignoring the macroeconomic ups and downs) still rewards knowledge workers much more than others. But in the next decade your personal assistant as well as your company’s personal assistant will be much more effective in any of these tasks than humans.

However, the general consensus seems to be that “humans with AI” will be replacing “humans without AI” soon. Beyond that it is too early to predict now ?

My take based on my synthesis of discussions and readings is — I would like human agency to continue even when AI becomes more capable of dealing with the world. We need to make progress and train students on science, mathematics, engineering, arts and sports to preserve human agency.

We see this in action now. We still have chess players competing against each other even though I doubt if any can consistently win over machines now.

Source: CNN.com — Praggnanandhaa second youngest grandmaster

We also need to make sure the world we build has good humans in control of good AGI.

A more immediate need is for universities and policy makers to keep a watch on how labor markets change adapting to increasing capabilities of AI. And perhaps train students on skills like empathy and emotional intelligence which humans would value more from a fellow human. ( at least for a while)

Interesting reads:

A research report by Goldman Sachs says AI could expose the equivalent of 300mn full-time jobs to automation in US and Europe.

Goldman Sachs

For some fields it is AI complementing workers and for some other fields it is a likely replacement. (full report)

The generative AI revolution has begun — how did we get here?

The Age of AI has begun — Bill Gates

--

--

Krishna Kumar K

Product Guy. (Worked at Indeed, Microsoft ...). I write about product management, startups, analytics and machine learning. Occasionally I digress...