Ben Thompson's "The Arrival of Artificial Intelligence" is a terrific piece, covering artificial intelligence, machine learning, the role in technology on productivity and workers, and closing with something that many of us in the tech industry are thinking:
"...[we] should be concerned about the imminent creation of a world that makes huge swathes of people redundant. How many will care if artificial intelligence destroys life if it has already destroyed meaning?"
This is the "dark outcome" of AI and robotics; that these advances in technology are going to be so swift and so widespread, that we are going to see massive unemployment at scales that we aren't prepared to handle. (One that I am worried about.)
However, there's also a "bright outcome": that AI will help us accomplish things that were not previously possible. Ben reminds us of the analogy that Steve Jobs was so fond of (and shared many times), that computers are the bicycle of the mind.
Technology, meanwhile, has been developed even longer than logic has. However, just as the application of logic was long bound by the human mind, the development of technology has had the same limitations, and that includes the first half-century of the computer era. Accounting software is in the same genre as the spinning frame: deliberately designed by humans to solve a specific problem.
Machine learning is different. Now, instead of humans designing algorithms to be executed by a computer, the computer is designing the algorithms.
This is what has so many of us both concerned and excited at the same time. It feels like we're on the cusp of a new revolution that will have both this "dark" and "bright" outcome - simultaneously. People will lose jobs; their livelihood will be diminished - and we need to help and protect them. At the same time, AI will help us write better and more complex software, AI will help us make better decisions backed by massive information, and AI will help us solve problems that are difficult or impossible with the tools of today.
Fun: Watch the Steve Jobs video linked above - it was from 1990. Now see this one from a decade earlier where he makes the link to tools, but not quite the link to computers that he does in the later interview.