It will also bring immense challenges in terms of potential job replacements. Whereas in the Industrial Age it created more jobs because craftsman jobs were being decomposed into jobs in the assembly line, so more jobs were created.
But AI completely replaces the individual jobs in the assembly line with robots. And it’s not just in factories, but truckers, drivers and even jobs like telesales, customer service and hematologists as well as radiologists over the next 15 years are going to be gradually replaced by artificial intelligence. And only the creative jobs — I have to make myself safe, right?
Really, the creative jobs are the ones that are protected, because AI can optimize but not create. But what’s more serious than the loss of jobs is the loss of meaning, because the work ethic in the Industrial Age has brainwashed us into thinking that work is the reason we exist, that work defined the meaning of our lives. And I was a prime and willing victim to that type of workaholic thinking.
I worked incredibly hard. That’s why I almost left my wife in the delivery room, that’s why I worked 996 alongside my entrepreneurs. And that obsession that I had with work ended abruptly a few years ago when I was diagnosed with fourth stage lymphoma. The PET scan here shows over 20 malignant tumors jumping out like fireballs, melting away my ambition. But more importantly, it helped me reexamine my life.
Knowing that I may only have a few months to live caused me to see how foolish it was for me to base my entire self-worth on how hard I worked and the accomplishments from hard work. My priorities were completely out of order. I neglected my family. My father had passed away, and I never had a chance to tell him I loved him. My mother had dementia and no longer recognized me, and my children had grown up.
During my chemotherapy, I read a book by Bronnie Ware who talked about dying wishes and regrets of the people in the deathbed. She found that facing death, nobody regretted that they didn’t work hard enough in this life. They only regretted that they didn’t spend enough time with their loved ones and that they didn’t spread their love.
So I am fortunately today in remission. So I can be back at TED again to share with you that I have changed my ways.
I now only work 965 — occasionally 996, but usually 965. I moved closer to my mother, my wife usually travels with me, and when my kids have vacation, if they don’t come home, I go to them. So it’s a new form of life that helped me recognize how important it is that love is for me, and facing death helped me change my life, but it also helped me see a new way of how AI should impact mankind and work and coexist with mankind, that really, AI is taking away a lot of routine jobs, but routine jobs are not what we’re about.
Why we exist is love. When we hold our newborn baby, love at first sight, or when we help someone in need, humans are uniquely able to give and receive love, and that’s what differentiates us from AI.
Despite what science fiction may portray, I can responsibly tell you that AI has no love. When AlphaGo defeated the world champion Ke Jie, while Ke Jie was crying and loving the game of go, AlphaGo felt no happiness from winning and certainly no desire to hug a loved one. So how do we differentiate ourselves as humans in the age of AI? We talked about the axis of creativity, and certainly that is one possibility, and now we introduce a new axis that we can call compassion, love, or empathy.
Those are things that AI cannot do. So as AI takes away the routine jobs, I like to think we can, we should and we must create jobs of compassion.
You might ask how many of those there are, but I would ask you: Do you not think that we are going to need a lot of social workers to help us make this transition? Do you not think we need a lot of compassionate caregivers to give more medical care to more people? Do you not think we’re going to need 10 times more teachers to help our children find their way to survive and thrive in this brave new world?
And with all the newfound wealth, should we not also make labors of love into careers and let elderly accompaniment or homeschooling become careers also?
This graph is surely not perfect, but it points at four ways that we can work with AI. AI will come and take away the routine jobs and in due time, we will be thankful AI will become great tools for the creatives so that scientists, artists, musicians and writers can be even more creative AI will work with humans as analytical tools that humans can wrap their warmth around for the high-compassion jobs.
And we can always differentiate ourselves with the uniquely capable jobs that are both compassionate and creative, using and leveraging our irreplaceable brains and hearts.
So there you have it: a blueprint of coexistence for humans and AI. AI is serendipity. It is here to liberate us from routine jobs, and it is here to remind us what it is that makes us human. So let us choose to embrace AI and to love one another.