Collective Prosperity

Working with AI requires seeing beyond automation to amplification. If society chooses to complement strengths between humans and machines, more dynamic partnerships become possible.

An abstract image of amplification of waves

Key Points:

  • The story of prosperity in an AI age depends on whether we use AI to complement or compete with human skills, and how we define knowledge discovered by machines.
  • Cultural factors determine if AI leads to shared prosperity through productivity gains or zero-sum competition over declining careers. Economic growth requires productivity growth.
  • The dominant narrative that AI inevitably lifts productivity overlooks complex realities. A bias for automation for efficiency underestimates context and neglects the human contribution that resist capture by automation.
  • If adopted as a collaborative tool rather than replacement, AI can create new areas of human expertise to mitigate skill saturation. The goal should be to focus on having AI tackle previously unsolvable and emergent problems.
  • The solution requires seeing AI as amplification rather than automation, combining strengths of human reasoning and AI's high-dimensional knowledge.

The story of prosperity in an AI age remains unwritten. Yet the way we talk about AI often fixates narrowly on AI’s impact on work, asking if machines will displace human work. We believe the more pressing questions are these:

  • Will we use AI to complement or compete with our core skills?
  • How do we define knowledge when machines know things we can't?
  • How does our culture evolve as intelligent, autonomous machines consume more of what we consider to be uniquely human capabilities?

We often think of AI as standalone agents with intelligence of their own. But it's not the only way to think about it. Psychology professor Alison Gopnik proposes reframing AI as "cultural technologies”. She thinks of generative AI as tools which harness our collective knowledge and capabilities that have accumulated over generations.

We agree. How AI helps or hinders us will depend on the culture in which it is adopted. If we collectively get this right, people may flourish with AI. What cultural factors need to align for shared prosperity rather than an outcome of zero-sum competition over dwindling career prospects in an automating world?

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